Have you come to dread the holiday season? It might not be due to the holidays themself, but rather the pressures, demands, and expectations that will inevitably be heaped upon you at both work and home.
If so, you’re not alone. It’s a feeling many others share. And with COVID, there’s an extra reason for anxious feelings.
So, how do you make your holiday season less stressful and more joyful? Here’s what you need to know about managing holiday stress.
What Causes Holiday Stress?
The holiday season is a whirlwind of activities. There’s a hustle and bustle that can cause both happiness and anxiety. According to Harvard Medical School, “Sixty-two percent of respondents described their stress level as ‘very or somewhat’ elevated during the holidays, while only 10 percent reported no stress during the season.”
So what are the most common stressors that people deal with? They include:
- Financial demands – An unfortunate aspect about the holidays is that they are expensive. Between the gift-giving and the celebrations, traveling, or going on vacation, the holidays can put a strain on your budget. Add the COVID market shock to the mix and you might be feeling that financial stress more so now than ever before.
- Managing family dynamics –Spending time with family can be more stressful for some than others. Emotions can run high and personalities clash. Although family gatherings will be more limited than in previous years, even interactions with immediate family can cause stress.
- Work – The year’s end close is often a hundred meter sprint to get work finished. For many businesses, it’s the most profitable time of the year. As such, those pressures at the job keep piling up. For many, working from home has also brought on an entirely new work-related stress since you’re technically always in the office.
- Staying healthy – Whether it’s the food, the parties, desserts, or the weather, it’s harder to stay healthy and in shape during the holidays. Many worry about weight gain or inability to exercise because of the winter weather or COVID restrictions.
- Feeling alone – Some people can feel isolated during the holidays. And this year, for the elderly and other people who are high-risk, the inability to spend cherished time with friends and family may be extra challenging.
5 Holiday Stress Tips to Help you Unwind & Manage Your Anxiety
Knowing the common sources of stress, what can you do to destress? Here are some tips:
- Give Back – Giving to those less fortunate than you is a great way to make someone’s holiday season better, and remind yourself to count your blessings. A 2015 study from the Journal of Association for Psychological Science found that: “Helping others boosted participants’ daily well-being. A greater number of helping behaviors was associated with higher levels of daily positive emotion and better overall mental health.”
Even if money is tight, there are easy ways to donate your time, energy, talents, or even blood to help others this year. Many have discovered that the more they give, the less they worry about their own problems.
- Treat your body well – There are several ways to treat your body as a temple. By eating healthy, exercising daily (even at home!), drinking less, and sleeping more, you will spend your days feeling more energized and less tense. On top of helping you feel better about how you look and feel, your body will naturally release mood-boosting endorphins every time you work out.
- Don’t lose sight of what matters – Often, the holidays are filled with unrealistic expectations and societal demands. It’s helpful to not get overwhelmed by it all, rather, step back, breathe, and reflect on what matters. John Hopkins medical school recommends that you ask yourself:
- Where does this fit in the grand scheme of things?
- Can I use this moment of frustration as an opportunity to reflect?
- Even if this moment seems stressful, can I find a way to make it pleasant?
If you do feel stressed, think of what Charlie Brown had to say, “It’s not what’s under the Christmas tree that matters, it’s who’s around it.”
- Be willing to say no – Do you have a problem of saying yes to everything? Volunteering at the school, attending parties, taking on extra assignments at work, pretty soon it can become quite the feat to juggle all of these things. This year, COVID will likely make it easier for you to say no to some things. And that can be good practice for next year. By setting priorities and selecting a few activities you want to focus on, you can help alleviate some of the pressure that keeps building up.
- Breathe – What with all the commotion, the holiday seasons can be a blur. Be sure to take some time to be by yourself, to be quiet, to get away from all of the noise. Whether this means getting out in nature, reading, going on walks, meditating, journaling, or praying, it’s important to take a step back and just breathe slowly. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.
How To Avoid Stressing Out Next Year
The holidays can be stressful, but they don’t have to be, especially if you keep these tips in mind.
If you’re someone who is prone towards holiday season stress, don’t let everything pile up at the last minute (this applies to this year and the next one). Get things done early and you’ll thank yourself later. Finally, remember to keep up your healthy habits all year round.
This is the recipe for a less stressful holiday.
Harvard Medical School. Holiday Stress and the Brain. https://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain/holiday-stress-and-brain
Clinical Psychological Science. Helping Others Dampens the Effects of Everyday Stress. https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/helping-others-dampens-the-effects-of-everyday-stress.html
Harvard Health. 5 ways to de-stress and help your heart. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/5-ways-to-de-stress-and-help-your-heart
John Hopkins. 4 Mindful Tips to De-Stress This Holiday Season. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/4-mindful-tips-to-destress-this-holiday-season