One week until Halloween – and the pressure is on. To me, Halloween marks the beginning of the holiday season. As soon as Halloween hits, it’s a whirlwind of holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. Although the holidays can bring loads of joy, they’re also a time of great stress. In fact, over 60% of Americans report increased stress during the holidays.1
What are we so stressed about?
The holidays are stressful for many reasons. First, expectations are high! Especially if you have little ones, there’s a lot of pressure to make the holidays special. More than 4 in 10 people claim they work “too hard” to achieve the perfect holiday.2 Second, the holidays are associated with high financial demands. Whether you’re buying new decorations, purchasing gifts, or putting a festive meal on the table, holiday costs add up quick. Lastly, we just don’t have enough time. Balancing work, caretaking, and holiday prep is more than a full-time job. Something’s got to give.
What can you do about it?
Well, like I said, something’s got to give. You can’t hold yourself to impossible holiday standards, and you have to carve out time to take care of yourself. You may not feel stressed yet, but it’s important to be proactive in avoiding holiday stress this season. Starting with this Halloween, focus on letting go of the image of a “perfect holiday.” Your kids won’t remember the super-intricate Halloween-themed dessert that took you five hours to make – and you’ll be too burned out to appreciate it yourself!
Now, maybe baking is something that brings you joy, and you enjoy the creative process of it all. If that’s the case, then by all means, bake away! My point is that many things you consider “holiday essentials” may not really be essential. If baking is a chore, pick up your pumpkin pie from the grocery store; believe it or not, it doesn’t have to be home-cooked from scratch. No one will judge you (and if they do – who cares?).
If you find yourself getting caught up in unrealistic holiday expectations this holiday season, try out these tips:
- Challenge your expectations. Next time you catch yourself thinking about the never-ending list of things you need to do to prepare for a holiday, really analyze that list. For each task, ask yourself: “Will anyone notice if this is missing/different this year?” and “Is this worth the time it will take?” If your answer is no, cross it off the list.
- Delegate, delegate, delegate. There’s no reason you should do it all! Often times, people are more than willing to help, but don’t know how to be of service. Consider asking your family members to be in charge of specific tasks to help prepare for a holiday.
- Practice compassion. Be compassionate toward yourself this holiday season. That means taking time to take care of yourself. Remember – you can’t pour from an empty cup. During this week before Halloween, I challenge you to trade some non-essential holiday to-do list items for acts of self-care, whatever that looks like for you.