How to Stress Less This Holiday Season

The holidays are upon us, and for many, it is a joyous time filled with many wonderful things. You enjoy special time making memories with friends and family. You might spend time baking, cooking, and eating delicious and indulgent holiday favorites.  You and your family might also spend time searching for and buying the perfect gifts for each other to show how much you care. You might also hop from party to party to celebrate the season amongst close family and friends.

holiday stress

For some, the holiday season brings more stress than celebration.  For example, spending extensive amounts of time with family and friends might cause you anxiety over difficult family dynamics.  You might have feelings of guilt after indulging in that delicious holiday food which might lead to low self-esteem.  You might feel worried about finding the perfect gift for family and friends. Also, feeling the financial stress of gift-giving, travel, and holiday decorating can lead to feelings of depression. Finally, you may feel exhausted and run down from attending all of the holiday gatherings and festivities.

Does any of this feel familiar to you? If yes, that is not a surprise. Almost a quarter of Americans report feeling “extremely stressed” during the holidays according to a study by the American Psychological Association (APA). The most common stressors that people report are feeling like they have a lack of time, lack of money, and the extreme pressure to give or get gifts. If you find yourself trying, and failing, to cope with the added stress and pressure of the holiday season, here are some strategies and reminders to help you create the meaningful holiday experience that you so deserve.

Set realistic expectations

The pressure to get the “perfect” gift and cook the “perfect” meal can be quite overwhelming.  It is important to identify what feels manageable to you and go from there.  If guessing what to get your child feels impossible, there is no shame in asking her for a wish list of special items she would love to receive. Also, those lists can go to family members who ask what to buy for your child.  Preparing a four-course meal from scratch might not feel doable this year, and that is okay. Carry-out might be more feasible with your lack of time and energy, and your loved ones will respect that.

Take time for yourself

When you are feeling run-down, stressed, and exhausted, spend some time alone. Even 20 minutes without any distractions can help energize you to tackle the tasks of the holiday season.  Choose a relaxation strategy that can slow down your breathing and clear your mind. Here are some ideas:

  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Try a guided meditation
  • Read a book with a cup of herbal tea
  • Take a quick power nap

Also, remember not to sacrifice your healthy habits during the holiday season, although it might feel difficult not to.  Try to get plenty of sleep, eat enough fruits and vegetables, and include physical activity in your routine.  Doing so will help you feel more balanced and reduce your stress throughout the holiday season.

Budget your money and time

Decide how much you are able and willing to spend on gifts, food, and decorations. Then, make a commitment to stick to the budget.  If you have a smaller budget this year, make homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange so that you are only buying for one person.

Shopping and preparation can become a full-time job during the holidays.  Take some time to plan what the next few weeks will look like and prepare your shopping lists. Designate specific days and times to shop and cook so that you do not become completely overwhelmed.

Set boundaries

Sometimes we feel pressure to say yes to things when we should really say no. This leads to feelings of resentment and frustration. You cannot possibly attend every holiday gathering because that would leave you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.  Friends, colleagues, and family will understand if you cannot participate in everything. Pick and choose the most important things for yourself and your family to participate in because your time and energy is valuable, especially during this time of year.

Tap into your feelings and ask for help

It is possible that the holidays are notoriously a tough time for you.  Maybe you are unable to spend time with family because they live far away, or your holiday gatherings might cause you added stress and anxiety due to family conflict. The important thing is to not avoid the feelings of sadness, frustration, or anger that arise during this time of year; rather, remember that these feelings are normal and find a way to express them that works best for you. This might include talking to a close friend or partner, or finding a mental health professional to help you process these feelings.

By incorporating these strategies into your life, you can reduce your stress and create a mindful and joyous holiday season for yourself and your family.


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