Tis the Season to Slow Down

5 ways to have a peaceful holiday celebration

From crowded shopping malls to tangled, twinkly lights to endless to-do lists, celebrating the holidays can bring on more than just joy. In fact, we often find ourselves greeting the season alongside the stress that comes with its expectations and obligations. According to experts at the Cleveland Clinic, staying positive and letting go of things you cannot control can help reduce stress. Set the tone for a peaceful season by slowing down, saying “no” and celebrating experiences instead of things.

Give the Gift of Anticipation

Shopping for gifts can be an anxiety-ridden challenge, especially if you don’t know the recipient very well. This year, instead of giving Sarah another sweater, seek out gifting opportunities that focus on experiences instead of things. Research out of Washington University and Cornell indicates that gifting an experience, such as concert or theater tickets, makes the receiver cheerier than does a physical object. This heightened happiness happens because experiences connect people on a deeper and more personal level than do tangible gifts. Studies also show that gifting an experience to which the recipient can look forward creates positive and longer-lasting feelings of contentment.

Try it tip: Consider gifts that celebrate the recipient’s favorite hobbies, such as classes at a boutique fitness studio or a brewery tour and tasting. If you don’t live in the same area as the gift recipient, look online for local events with Eventbrite.

Take Time for Traditions

From parties to plans to purchases, it is easy to get bogged down by the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Instead of letting your hectic schedule stress you out, set aside time to relax and enjoy the most wonderful time of the year. Whether you’re reveling with family or your circle of friends, give yourself the gift of quality time by adopting traditions to look forward to year after year. Remember, don’t overcomplicate it. Traditions can be as simple as getting together to build a snowman, make latkes or play (reindeer) games.

Try it tip: To keep it fun and make sure you stick with it as the days get busier, start a traditions jar. Give your family members a few slips of colored paper and ask everyone to write down holiday activities you can do together. As the holidays approach, take turns selecting activities from the jar.

Turn Tasks Into Celebrations

There was once a time when nothing was more fun or magical than baking cookies with mom. As an adult, all that baking, wrapping, and decorating feels like an inconvenience. Tap into that childhood holiday spirit by swapping your to-do list with a get-to-do list. Instead of mindlessly powering through your tasks, turn mundane chores into celebrations with a little forward thinking. Start by scheduling them as events on the family calendar so that you can look forward to the festivities. When each occasion arrives, turn on your favorite holiday music and pour festive beverages to make the project fun. Involve the kids by identifying areas that let them be “in charge.” For example, if you’re addressing holiday cards, ask your kids to add the stamp on each envelope.

Try it tip: Stream your yuletide soundtrack with Spotify. It’s easy to listen to holiday classics and new favorites at home or on the go. Try creating a personalized playlist or enjoy one of Spotify’s curated options.

Give Back, Together

The holidays bring blessings that grant us the opportunity to help the less fortunate. We have many opportunities to spread the warmth and give back in our communities. Select a cause close to your heart and volunteer to lend a helping hand. Organize your loved ones to bring canned goods to a food bank, donate gently used coats to a clothing drive or spend time with Fido and Fluffy through a volunteer shift at your local animal shelter. Giving back is a great way to bond with family and friends, and we promise it’ll feel as good–or better than-unwrapping gifts.

Try it tip: Need help finding opportunities near your home? The answer may already be at your fingertips. Try one of the mobile apps, such as Golden, that matches volunteers with local projects, making volunteering easy to plan.

Learn to Say “No”

We carry heavy expectations into the holiday season, and these demands are huge contributing factors to holiday stress. Instead of letting December’s added pressure get to you, rein in your self-mandated rules for what must happen to make the season bright. That’s right, it’s time to give yourself the gift of saying “no”to others and to yourself. To manage expectations, start by making a master holiday task list, from sending cards to attending events to basting the turkey. After you've made your list, it’s time to check it twice. First, scan the list for what can be removed, such as an activity that your family has outgrown or a party that has become an obligation. Commit to removing at least one item. Second, review your to-dos to find at least two that you can make simplerfor example, you’ll still make cookies, but it will be just two varieties instead of four.

Try it tip: Are extravagant holiday dinners high on your list of expectations? Nab some of your cash-back rewards to give yourself a break this year and be okay with going out to eat or ordering in. Holiday dinners don’t need to be fancy; in fact, some of your fondest memories might end up being made around trays of tasty takeout.

This article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to provide medical or legal advice, or to indicate the availability or suitability of any product or service for your unique circumstances. Capital One does not provide, endorse, or guarantee any third-party product, service, information or recommendation listed above. The third parties listed are solely responsible for their products and services, and all trademarks listed are the property of their respective owners.

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