How to Stay Stress-Free During the Holiday Season
"As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded by December's bad weather, it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives who are worth this aggravation, and people to whom we are worth the same." - Donald E. Westlake
It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!….Or is it?
The lights, the food, the laughter...ahh the holidays. It’s that one time of the year when families come together to celebrate each other and the holiday season. The holidays are meant to be about spending time with those you love, joy, and making memories. But, the holidays are not necessarily always fun for everyone.
Many people actually dread the holiday season and would prefer to avoid it all together. According to a survey conducted by Think Finance which was reported on nbcnews.com, 45% of those people living in the United States would choose to skip out on the holidays, rather than deal with the stress of it all.
What Causes Holiday Stress?
There are a variety of reasons why the time leading up to the holiday season and the holidays themselves can cause anxiety. According to an article posted by AllOneHealth.com,
“Nearly a quarter of Americans reported feeling ‘extreme stress’ come holiday time, according to a poll by the American Psychological Association. Holiday stress statistics show that up to 69 percent of people are stressed by the feeling of having a ‘lack of time,’ 69 percent are stressed by perceiving a ‘lack of money,’ and 51 percent are stressed out about the ‘pressure to give or get gifts.’”
In addition the factors of time, money, and gift buying as mentioned above, there are other reasons why people find the holidays to be stressful. Some of these reasons include:
- Family drama
- Broken relationships
- Often times coming together with family can be a trigger and/or a reminder of who is not able to be there
- The pressure to travel
- The cost of travel
- Traveling with children
- Weather delays and complications
- Taking time off of work
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)/Seasonal Depression
- Managing the expectations of others
- Typically family members
- Feeling behind on gift buying and sending
Mental Health Symptoms of Holiday Anxiety
When any or all of the above listed reasons directly affect an individual, mental health concerns could become a factor. Some of the mental health issues that are at risk during the holiday season include:
- Anxiety/panic attacks
- Addiction issues (increased alcohol and/or drug-use)
- Mood changes
- Short temper/anger
- Periods of mania
Physical Health Symptoms of Holiday Anxiety
Most times, mental health issues are connected to other symptoms dealing with physical health risks. Some of the physical health issues that could be affected when an individual is dealing with anxiety due to the holiday season might include:
- Loss of appetite/under eating
- Increase in appetite/overeating
- Difficulty focusing
- Digestive issues
- Aching muscles and joints
- Poor work performance
8 Coping Tips to Stay Stress-Free
It is important to find ways to help yourself, or someone you know, to cope with holiday stress. Below are some ways that could help assist in attempting to stay calm around the holidays in an effort to enjoy the season.
- Be realistic
- Acknowledging what is specifically stressing you out is important to being able to pick and choose what is feasible
- Acknowledging your emotions and knowing how to deal with your feelings is important to communicating in a healthy way
- After you check in with yourself and acknowledge what makes you feel stressed, it can become a lot easier to decide what is realistic for you and how to manage any expectations
- Take a look at your finances in advance so you can plan accordingly if you plan on buying gifts and/or hosting any meals or events
- Once you are educated on what amount you feel comfortable with spending around the holidays, create a budgeting system to use in order to keep track of your holiday expenses
- Stick to the budget you agree with yourself, or your spouse, to set!
- Try to let go of any family drama, whether it is long-standing or recent
- Putting your differences aside is healthy for both sides
- Avoiding the drama and enjoying your time with everyone will make it more enjoyable not just for you, but for everyone who will be attending (even those uninvolved)
- Whether you are stressed about hosting the holidays, a school or work holiday event, or buying and sending out gifts, it can be very helpful to plan ahead accordingly
- Formulate lists to help keep track of what needs to be done and when
- Checking items off the list can feel very rewarding
- It is okay to not do everything, especially if you are overwhelmed
- Between the holiday dinners themselves, the work and school functions, and the Secret Santa exchanges at work or with your friends, it can all become too much and before you know it, every single free night and weekend is filled up in your calendar
- Give yourself permission to not do everything
- Make sure that you speak up for yourself and feel confident when you decide to not attend something, or buy something for an old friend
- The holidays are generally filled with cheesy appetizers, carb-rich food, and sugary desserts
- Due to our busy schedules at this time of the year we often times don’t always have the time to make it to the gym
- Try to keep up with your “off-holiday season” lifestyle as much as possible in order to not get too off track
- However, give yourself permission to enjoy and indulge; after all it is the holidays!
- Taking the time to pause is essential to staying grounded and centered
- Conscious breathing
- Many times, talking out your feelings and anxieties with a therapist can be the best route
- Particularly if your anxieties are surrounded by broken relationships, family drama, or loss, a therapist is an excellent third party source who can provide knowledge, wisdom, and healthy coping tips
If you are in fact one of those people who suffers from dreading the holidays due to holiday stress, just remember that this is indeed meant to be the most wonderful time of the year. Not losing sight of who YOU are by means of staying grounded and realistic in terms of expectations is the best mindset you can take in order to take off some of the stress and enjoy the holiday season!