5 tips for happier holidays

The right perspective includes forgetting about perfection.

This year, give yourself the best holiday gift ever: more merry, magical moments and fewer frazzled ones.

Here are five ways to make this year’s celebrations high on joy and low on stress — and help you keep the happy in the holidays.

1. Ratchet down those expectations. Chasing after picture-perfect get-togethers can create the perfect storm of stress. It’s OK if your guests arrive while you’re still setting the table, if you burn the pumpkin pie or if the sweater you bought for your favorite cousin is the wrong size. Things happen, even during the holidays.

“Keep that in perspective, and do your best to relax and enjoy,” says Christine Ferens, an outpatient therapist with Kettering Behavioral Medicine Center. “Take a moment to inhale through your nose for a count of four, and exhale through your mouth for a count of six. This can help you to relax and carry on with your celebration.

2. Trim your to-do list. Cross out at least one or two things that are likely to make you frantic. You don’t have to say yes to every invitation that comes your way or bake cookies from scratch when it may be easier to buy some. “Make what matters most your priority, like spending time with family and friends,” Ferens suggests.

3. Catch your breath. You may be so busy preparing for the holidays that you forget about rest and relaxation. But chances are, you need that downtime now more than ever. “Carve out at least a few minutes every day to recharge,” says Ferens. “Do something that gives you pleasure like unwinding with music or sitting in stillness for a few minutes a day and identifying how many sounds you hear.”

4. Lend a hand. Spread some holiday cheer by volunteering for your favorite charity, maybe a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter. You could send a letter to a soldier deployed overseas, or visit an elderly person in a nursing home who has no family. Ferens believes such simple yet meaningful acts will be appreciated and may help lift your spirits and put you in that special holiday mood.

5. Resist the temptation to overspend. Ultimately, you’re only setting yourself up for post-holiday stress. Scale back, and remind yourself that the real holiday spirit doesn’t revolve around pricey gifts.

If you enjoy making crafts or baking, consider giving some homemade gifts or give the gift of your time: Wrap up a homemade coupon for some baby-sitting hours. Weary parents will be grateful. “Perhaps you could offer to clean the home of an elderly person or someone recovering from an illness,” suggests Ferens. “These types of gifts are easy on the budget and often greatly appreciated.”

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Kettering Health Network is a faith-based, not-for-profit healthcare system. The network has eight hospitals: Grandview, Kettering, Sycamore, Southview, Greene Memorial, Fort Hamilton, Kettering Behavioral Health and Soin.