Tips For Managing Stress During the Holiday Season
The holidays are a time of great joy for many people. There’s a particular sense of happiness in the air, families come together, gifts are exchanged, magic runs rampant—however, it’s also a time of great stress. Have you heard the famous saying, “I’m only one pudding away from a Yuletide meltdown”? Well, that quote seems to sum it all up pretty well.
According to the American Psychological Association, nearly a quarter of Americans report experiencing “extreme stress” during the holiday season. In fact, according to a poll, 69% are stressed by having a lack of money and time; 51% report feeling stressed about the pressure “to give or receive gifts”. Does this ring a bell for you? Anyone would be hard-pressed to find a person who hasn’t felt this during this time of year.
Spencer Blackman, a doctor at One Medical Group, claims the holiday stress goes far beyond a lack of finances for gift-giving. “Our routines are interrupted—by travel, guests, parties and the holiday themselves,” he said. “We may work, sleep, eat and exercise in ways that are less healthy and supportive than normal.”
And it’s not just those factors that contribute to the anxiety and tension of the holiday season. What about family arguments during get-togethers? Loneliness? Fear of crowds? Frequency of parties? Even the end-of-the-year overwhelming emotions of feeling unaccomplished?
Make no mistake—this can be a fraught time. But we have some stress management activities and tips that will help you overcome the conflicting emotions and even physical symptoms related to holiday stress. After all, it’s important to enjoy the festivities as much as you can since they only occur once a year.
Top Stress Management Activities
Create a Gifting Budget
Since it appears one of the primary concerns amongst people during the holidays is money, our first time has to do with setting a budget. That’s right—a budget—specifically, a spending budget! A recent Gallup poll reported that on average, American shoppers intend to spend around $850 on gifts during the holiday season. Is that way over what you normally spend—way under? Finding your own set amount that makes sense with your finances is crucial for reducing stress.
No one wants to start the new year looking at intimidating credit card bills or finding out we’re in the red when it comes to our checking accounts. It’s so easy to overspend, as people get so caught up in the holiday gift-giving frenzy, especially with the warmhearted attempt at “making people’s Christmas dreams come true”. However, if you set a spending budget on gift-giving, you are creating parameters for yourself that will allow you not to go overboard and ease your mind of financial woes as January encroaches.
Restrict credit card use as much as possible is also an important tip, as it finding creative ways to give gifts without spending much money. After all, time—in and of itself—is perhaps more valuable than anything you can offer someone materially. Try volunteering to babysit for a friend’s child one evening or dog sitting for a weekend free-of-charge. You’d be surprised how much people appreciate these offers—they can mean a lot more than a pricey gift card to the mall!
Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
We all know that one of the best ways to relieve tension and anxiety is to exercise. Around the holiday season exercising can be challenging with all the familial obligations. However, exercise can be just the thing to save you from that yuletide meltdown.
Whether it’s going to the gym when you have an hour or two free or going on a walk—if weather permits—getting your body moving is essential for the production of endorphins—which are natural stress-relievers—in the brain. Just think about it—a walk around the neighborhood can be just what you need when arguing with relatives about politics becomes too much.
Exercise is important for the body, but also the mind—and let’s be honest here, you will need a clear-headed mind to get you through this trying time! Make every attempt you can to keep moving and if possible, make it a priority. It could be the thing that saves you in between parties.
Maintain Realistic Expectations
Often times during the holidays we have an idealized version of how we think things will go. Does this sound familiar to you? The constant barrage of picture perfect moments from social media during this time of year doesn’t help with this problem, too. After all, it is a time of great imagination and creativity—yet this can lead to some serious letdowns when it comes to familial interactions, gift-giving and receiving, as well as party mishaps.
It’s important to maintain realistic expectations during the holidays—expectations of yourself and what you are capable of financially and energetically—expectations of your family and friends in terms of how they interact with you and others—even expectations of events or parties or gatherings and how smoothly they will run. The holidays can be associated with dysfunction, so accept those awkward moments as they come to you and don’t take them personally.
Pinpoint the Positive
It’s so easy to get bogged down with what we don’t like during this time of year, whether it’s general holiday malaise or specifics about annoying Christmas lights or light-up Santas. However, it’s important to focus and pinpoint the positive aspects of this time of year.
It may even help to keep a log or journal of all of the positive experiences you can remember from previous holiday seasons. Keep in mind, while this is a stressful time, it’s also pretty fabulous in many respects. Who doesn’t love reconnecting with family and friends? Also, even though it can be heavy—what’s not to love about all the wonderful food? There is so much to enjoy—pinpoint whatever those aspects are and focus on them to help you get through it!
Begin Shopping Early
For most people, shopping is unavoidable during the holidays, so make every attempt that you can to do so early. No one likes running around the last-minute the day before an event or party, desperately trying to find a gift. Begin making your holiday to-do list well before the last-minute cramming time frame.
This is where online deals through Cyber Monday or another day in early December might come in handy. Ordering online is almost more convenient than actually going to a store and you can often find better deals. Also, buying wrapping paper and holiday cards right after the holiday season when they are all on sale is a sure-fire way to stock up for next year without breaking the bank.
Making a list throughout the year of inventive gifts for family and friends is also a great tip; no one likes wracking their brain when time has everyone under pressure.
This is great advice for working professionals when it comes to their office life, but also a relevant tip for those going through holiday stress, as well. It’s important to delegate during this time of year because—well—why should you have to do everyone on your own? It’s unnecessary and burdensome and takes away from the joy and gratitude you should be experiencing this time of year. Delegate, delegate, delegate.
If you’re hosting a party or gathering, ask others to bring desserts or dishes since it’s a lot to handle making all of that food by yourself! Additionally, you can delegate clean up after everyone leaves. Why should you have to do the dishes and the vacuuming? You’d be surprised how willing others are to pitch in and help during this time of year.
Factor in Alone Time
Everybody needs alone time, right? It’s how most people recharge after a long day of interacting with others. The holidays can be a revolving door of family and friends, causing many to feel burnt out and exhausted from talking, story-sharing and laughing—or pretending to laugh. Alone time is valuable for your mental health; it’s what can give you the energy and frame of mind to sit across from your uncle with whom you disagree politically at the dinner table.
Schedule alone time in your weekly routine. Even if it’s just 20 minutes, every little bit counts. Whether it’s sitting alone in your room for a little while with a good book or listening to music in between holiday parties—spending time with yourself is crucial for stress management and anxiety relief.
In the end, only you can determine what is useful to you during this time of year when it comes to reducing stress. We all have different ways of coping with the demands of the holiday season. Keep in mind that tension around this time of year is commonplace, even widespread—so don’t feel alone. However you choose to manage your stress levels and mental health, make it a priority to enjoy all of it as much as you can.