The holiday season creates mixed emotions as we look forward to the family traditions of decorating the tree, gift exchanges, and Christmas dinner. During the preparations for these events we can make unrealistic demands on ourselves and then stress ourselves out when we can’t meet them. It can also create family conflict, strained finances, and increased indulgences of alcohol. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that the effects of psychological stress can weaken immune function and trigger inflammation which raises the risk of autoimmune disease, coronary artery disease and depression.

Down-size your holiday

Research shows that those who can look at things from a different, lighter perspective are better able to handle higher amounts of stress. To decrease your stress have a family meeting and ask them to pick five things that they didn’t enjoy in previous holidays and give yourself permission not to do them. Then discuss with your partner how to share the additional responsibilities of decorating, gift shopping, and baking to your already frantic schedule. Sharing the responsibilities can create more balance in your relationship and it can keep you connected.

After determining what traditions are most important set a budget on how much you should spend. Put your family’s needs first and down-size from there. Gifts can be an expression of love but so can your time, affection and words of affirmation.

Enjoy your time together

Different polls report different statistics but somewhere between 60 to 80 percent will re-gift the presents they receive this year. Some people will re-gift to save money, others recycle or genuinely feel that someone else would enjoy the gift more. So don’t confuse love with the giving of gifts. Homemade gifts can be a family project. Try making your own Christmas cards this year, compile a cookbook of your family’s favorite recipes or make a coupon book for household chores. You could video tape family members doing a special talent and send it to grandparents. Challenge your creativity and set a $10.00 limit for a gift exchange or have a White Elephant gift swap. Removing the commercial pressure we feel during the holidays can leave you more time to appreciate the blessings of the holiday season.