The holidays are a happy season for celebrating with family, friends and coworkers. But for many people, it is also a time of heightened anxiety and stress. Often, people get worked up from the increased responsibilities, lofty expectations and soaring financial pressures that go with the holidays, and that causes distress.
It’s impossible to avoid all stressful situations. Chances are there will be increased traffic – and maybe bad weather, road closures and delays – at this time of year. But you don’t have to add to that stress by trying to accomplish everything. Tell yourself that you don’t have to be perfect; repeat it until you believe it.
If you get stressed out during the holidays, this blog is for you. We’ll explore some suggestions for staying calm during the holidays.
No Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or other holiday celebration is going to be perfect, so don’t set unrealistic expectations for your family activities. Don’t get overwhelmed by the pressure of creating holiday events that resemble a Norman Rockwell portrait. Keep in mind that as families grow and change, traditions and rituals change as well.
Instead of trying to fit in all of your traditions, identify the most important ones and take small steps to make them a reality. Be open to creating new traditions as well. For example, if your adult children can’t be with you, make them part of your celebration by sharing emails, photos and videos.
And when your family is gathered, set aside any differences you may have. Accept your family members as they are, even if they haven’t lived up to your expectations. Be understanding if others become distressed when something goes wrong. They’re probably feeling the stress of the holidays just like you.
Be proactive. The holidays are about bringing people together, not driving them apart. Focus on good memories and what family members have in common. Don’t debate differences of opinion during holiday dinner. There are more appropriate times and places for those discussions.
Keep things in perspective. It helps to remember that the holiday season is short. If something goes wrong, it’s not the end of the world. That situation will quickly pass. To recover, think of the good things in your life and accept that there’s time after the holidays to do more of the things you didn’t have time to do during the actual holiday season.
Remember what’s important. Our consumer culture has a way of robbing the holiday season of its authentic meaning and cashing in on a time that once had personal significance to us. For you, that significance may surround family, community or faith. Take time to reestablish what made the season significant for you in the first place. Volunteer in the community or help someone in need to reaffirm what the season is all about.
Many people spend excessive amounts of money in pursuit of perfect gifts, but that can intensify stress. Remember, you can’t buy happiness with expensive gifts. Before you go shopping, determine how much you can really afford to spend on gifts and stick to your budget. Try online shopping to avoid crowded malls and the stress that goes with them.
As an alternative to buying expensive gifts for everyone on your list, consider donating to a charity in a loved one’s name, giving homemade gifts or starting a family gift exchange.
Accept that there’s only so much time during the holidays and you cannot attend every party and event. Your friends will understand if you can’t make their get-together. They’re in the same boat with similar limits on time. Skip seeing The Nutcracker, even if it’s a holiday tradition. The ballet will run again next year, when you may have more time to see it.
Skip the alcohol. Drinking alcohol is a big contributor to holiday stress. A drink or two in moderation probably won’t hurt, unless you’re a recovering alcoholic. But drinking can lead to serious problems, including the potential of arrest for driving under the influence or, even worse, an auto crash that causes injury or death. Consider drinking something festive and nonalcoholic. It’s a safer choice and will reduce your stress level.
Make sure to take care of your health. Get adequate sleep and don’t forget regular workouts, even when your time is consumed by holiday preparations and activities. Your body needs sleep to recharge and renew its cells. Even with the crunch on your time, try to get eight hours of sleep each night.
Exercise is a natural stress reliever. It rids the body of stress hormones and releases endorphins, the body’s feel-good neurotransmitters. Exercise has been found to reduce anger, tension, fatigue and confusion. Studies show that when regular exercisers become inactive, they begin to feel depressed and fatigued after just one week.
If you’ve tried multiple stress-relieving tips and still suffer, consider seeing a professional for help. A therapist can teach you additional strategies for easing the stress of the season or any other time.