The calendar flips to November and just like that, the holidays are upon us.
For many, this can be a stressful time of year. The good news is there are things you can do to minimize the stress – and help you savor time spent with the ones you love during the holidays.
What is stress – and what causes holiday stress?
Stress is the feeling you get when you’re overloaded – you’re wondering how you can possibly get everything done. According to Medical News Today, we go into “fight or flight” mode and start breathing faster and our muscles tense.1
The holidays have been known to cause stress. You may feel spread too thin, overworked and underappreciated. From travel to school to baking and entertaining, the calendar entries and obligations abound.
Too much of a good thing?
Anxiety and stress – and in some cases, depression – can especially arise during the holidays. That’s because there’s usually more on your plate, from tasks to social events.
Your routine is often affected because you’re trying to fit more in your day. This can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule. You may not be eating healthy or exercising like you usually do. And buying gifts can take a toll on your budget.2
The holidays aren’t necessarily a happy time for everyone, either. They can be a sad and emotional period if you’re unable to visit friends and family who live far away – or if you’re grieving the loss of a loved one.2
But take heart — there are things you can do to minimize the stress and enjoy the holidays, however you choose to celebrate them.
How can I prevent holiday stress?
If you know you perennially get stressed during the holidays, it’s key to take action to prevent yourself from getting stressed out in the first place.2
Manage your expectations — let go of what you think the holidays “should be” — things don’t have to be perfect!
Here are some useful tips you can work on before the holidays descend to help prevent stress from overtaking you:1
Tips for preventing mental and physical stress
- Practice deep breathing
- Learn how to relax through meditation or yoga
- Recognize your physical signs of stress – so you know when to keep yourself calm
- Identity what helps you de-stress – so you can take action at the first sign of stress (like take a walk or listen to music)
Tips for preventing financial stress
- Stick to a holiday budget. Live within your means. And try cutting back on the number of gifts you give or do a gift exchange. Remember, it’s the thought that counts, not the amount of money you spend.
- Don’t rely too heavily on credit cards. What may bring you joy now, will not be so joyful when the monthly bill rolls around in January.
- Forgo gift giving altogether and donate those funds to a family in need or favorite non-profit.
- Instead of serving family or friends a three-course meal, save on your food and beverage budget and host a potluck.
How can I manage holiday stress once it hits?
Particularly during the holiday season, you can manage stress by learning to say no.3 You don’t have to take on everything yourself. Maybe you tell your child’s school you can’t make the costumes this year. Or ask another friend or family member to host Christmas Eve dinner instead.
It’s also important to take time for yourself to unwind. Don’t short-change yourself and cut out things in your life that make you happy or help you de-stress. Keep up your workouts. Take that bubble bath. Watch that football game. Get a babysitter and go shopping on a weeknight.
Changing your perspective about the holidays can also help. If something doesn’t get done, what would happen? Would a crisis ensue? Probably not. So be realistic.
The Mayo Clinic also says it can be helpful to set aside differences during this time and get professional help if you need to.3
Tips for enjoying the holidays
Johns Hopkins Medicine offers some simple things you can do to make your holiday less stressful. If you apply these to your life, this can be a season of enjoyment. And you can take pleasure in creating new holiday memories with friends and family:4
- Think about what makes the season meaningful for you – That way you can be intentional about who you spend your time with – and how you spend your time during the holidays.
- Make a plan early on – Do at least one thing you enjoy during the holidays, like attending a holiday concert or checking out local lights displays.
- Don’t do everything yourself – Accept help when people offer it and proactively ask for help. Also practice saying no.
- Stay healthy – Don’t skip your workouts and eat healthy when you can. This can be easier said than done, but can help you stay energized. It’s easy to overindulge during the holidays, so eat and drink in moderation.
- Manage your expectations for family gatherings. When multiple generations and multiple families celebrate together, it can be challenging to feel heard and understood. Be clear about what you need the most and flexible about the rest.
- Recognize what worked for you during this holiday season – Pat yourself on the back for being less stressed this year! What could you improve on? Plan to make adjustments for next year, so your holiday is even more enjoyable.
Happy holidays to you and your family! May your days be merry and bright – and a little less stressful.