The holiday season is an opportunity to spend time with family and friends, to take some time off work, or even escape for a winter getaway. For all the joy and fun, though, the holiday season often brings on uninvited stress.
The expectations of social events, gift shopping/giving, and entertaining guests can become too much for even the most festive of types. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association 8 out of 10 people expect to experience an increase in their stress level over the holiday season. With stress comes a greater risk of anxiety and depression, as reports from the Mayo Clinic show that depression is frequently an unwelcome guest over the holidays.
Not all is lost however, there are many ways you can minimize your stress and anxiety to allow yourself to truly enjoy the season.
Set a Budget
A lot of the stress that we experience during the holidays is due to financial pressure we often bring on to ourselves. According to the Mayo Clinic, setting a budget can be beneficial to your stress levels. Shopping can be fun, but spending money any which way, isn’t always possible or without regret. Studies find that even the average American spends about a $1,000 every holiday season on gifts alone. If this looks to be unavoidable, then work on minimizing the damage by setting a gift-buying budget and work out how much you can afford to spend on food and necessary travel then stick to it. Remember, we can’t buy happiness.
Pay Attention to Healthy Habits
The American Heart Association wants us to be smart about our health at all times, but paying special attention to our physical activity, sleep pattern and snacking habits, are extremely important and may be harder to keep up during the holidays.
You might be very busy, but don’t abandon your healthy habits as there’s no point to engaging in a ‘free for all’, that will just add to your stress. Any activity or exercise you can fit in will help reduce your stress level and may elevate your mood. Exercise stimulates endorphin production and triggers a positive feeling in your body. Try to find time for exercise, even if it’s just for half an hour three times a week, you will feel better. Make it a family affair and go walking, jogging, or biking together. Make family members teams and play a team sport, or you can even take time off and go swimming at your local aquatic center or find and participate in a an aerobics class.
Overindulging in food and or drink may result in feelings of guilt, which will add to your stress. To help with this, it might be a good idea to have a small healthy snack before going to your holiday gathering. This may help in curbing your impulse to overeat or to snack mindlessly. Also, make sure to get a proper amount of sleep, as we are more likely to overindulge after a poor night’s sleep.
Stay Smart & Take It Easy
The American Psychological Association reminds us that we need to take time for ourselves. There are parties and gatherings and we are constantly surrounded by people. It’s great to be with the ones we love and laugh about the old days. But what if you’ve recently lost a loved one in death or they are oceans away and won’t be home anytime soon? Well, the first thing is to acknowledge your feeling. It’s normal to feel sadness and grief and know that everyone grieves differently! Don’t feel guilty if you need to be alone for a ‘few’ to cry. There’s no point in forcing to be happy, just because it’s the holiday season or because everyone else is.
You shouldn’t miss all those great times either, but do be careful of setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. Perfection is not necessary and this year doesn’t have to be just like last year or the year before. Remember, families change and grow, so often times, traditions and rituals change as well. Accept the change and try choosing a few to hold onto, and be open to creating new traditions. For example, if your adult children or that faraway loved one, can’t be physically present, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, or connect using today’s technology such as Facetime or Skype.
If you usually do a lot of the hosting, make sure to do some delegating… whether you ask family members to take on certain tasks or just ask everyone to bring a different dish to add to the table. Remember, “many hands make for a lighter load’ and often times.. a happier mood.
Choose Your Battles
We all have someone in our circle that rubs us the wrong way. It’s only natural, as we will not all get along with everyone. Allowing someone else to get under your skin, though, is only going to ruin your holiday and increase your stress levels. So take the higher road and don’t be so quick to take offense. Besides, learning to pick your battles is a skill well worth learning as it has long term benefits.
The Mayo Clinic suggests that if you have a real problem with someone, set it aside and save it for another day. Even the calmest people can lose their cool during the holidays.
Self-care is a conscious choice and this is even more true and necessary during times of more stress, such as the holiday season. Make sure to take the time and create a deliberate plan to be as stress free as possible! Remember, the holidays are supposed to be a time of fun, family and relaxation, don’t let stress interfere with what’s supposed to be your festive time of the year.