Why does the “most wonderful time of the year” also have to be the most stressful? While the holidays can create a lot of fun and joyful moments – reconnecting with loved ones, eating delicious food, and swapping presents – it can also bring on some intense negative emotions. The combined efforts of a long shopping list, attending many social events, hosting family members and entertaining guests can get very overwhelming.
You are not alone if you feel extra stress during the holidays. A poll by the American Psychological Association shows that 8 out of 10 people anticipate increased stress during Thanksgiving and Christmas. It can even lead to depression in some people. It’s an unwelcomed guest.
There are many ways though that you can help manage the extra stress and anxiety you have on your plate. By taking steps ahead of time, you will experience a more relaxed and joyous holiday season. Here is what you can do to help.
Stick to a Spending Budget
One of the biggest causes of stress for many families year round is financial. When it gets to the holidays it can get even worse. Between buying gifts for your children, spouse, coworkers, teachers and the like it all starts to add up. In 2015, a Gallup poll found that shoppers planned spending an average of $830 on gifts over the holidays.
Spending money during the holidays is unavoidable. By planning ahead, though, you can avoid spending extra money you don't have. Create a budget and stick to it. Don't let others tempt or force you into spending money you don't have, because in the long-run it will only generate more stress for you. Leave the credit cards at home and carry cash if that will help you. Thoughtful, loving gifts are going to go a long way with those you love. You don’t need to buy everyone the latest iPhone.
Watch Your Health
Inevitably at this time of year, you will be tempted to throw away your gym regimen and devour every cookie in sight. While this is certainly OK in moderation, doing it daily for weeks on end can really affect you negatively. Sugary, empty-calorie treats will not help you to be your most energetic self and will actually do the opposite. When you know you have lots of holiday parties coming up, try and make sure you have lean meats, leafy greens and fruit during the week to help stay balanced. This also includes watching your alcohol intake. Many drink more during the holidays due to parties, but it’s OK to pass on that extra glass of champagne.
Working out is not only good for your overall health but it will also be a great stress reliever. Research shows that physical activity not boosts your fitness and energy levels but can also elevate your moods. Moving your body will distract you from some of the anxiety you are feeling.
Respect Your Own Limits
No one ever said you must get everything done and done perfectly in order to have a good holiday. Many times, we are our own worst enemy. We put tons of pressure on ourselves that isn't necessary. That mom down the street that looks like she has it all together? She's also drowning in shopping lists and Christmas parties. Everyone is struggling during this time, so don't set unrealistic expectations or too high of standards. You don't have to get everything right and be perfect, because those who matter won't judge you.
This includes respecting your limits both mentally and physically. You must learn when to say no and not feel regret for doing so. Don't offer to host family members for a weekend or volunteer at your child's school if you know it will be too much with what you already have on your plate. Instead, pick the things that you know will bring you the most joy. Keep your schedule simple and you’ll feel much more at peace.
Set Time For Yourself
Most people forget to take care of themselves when they’re focused on taking care of everyone else first. Setting time aside for yourself each day, even if it is only for 10 minutes, will make a world of difference. It will help give you time to clear your mind and breathe. Pick activities that you know help relax you like reading a book, taking a long bath, or getting a massage. It will give you the opportunity to stop focusing on your to-do list and be refreshed. Don’t feel guilty for needing downtime. You can’t give your best to those you love if you don’t focus on yourself first.
Be Mindful of the Moment
It’s important to remember why you are celebrating. It could be an important religious holiday for you or you might just be happy to have a few days off of work. No matter what you celebrate about this time of year make sure you keep it in the forefront of your mind. Life is supposed to be exciting and is worth celebrating, even with all of its stress and imperfections.
Practicing gratitude or taking up meditation is also a great way to get through the stress of the holidays. Everyone has something they are thankful for and it will help keep things in perspective. Meditation also will give you an opportunity to forget your to-do list for a few moments and refresh. When you feel yourself getting overwhelmed or upset, focus back in on the moment. Say a few things you are grateful for and be present.
The holidays can be a great time of year, but also very stressful. By using these tips you will be able to have a holiday season filled with a little bit less anxiety. Focus on yourself, what you enjoy, and remember that you don’t have to be perfect. The holidays are about having fun, so make sure you allow yourself to do so.