Personally, I love Christmas. For me and my family it really is the most wonderful time of the year. I love the hustle and bustle of shopping and baking and decorating, seeing family and friends, the bright lights, and Christmas songs on the radio. But for many people, the holidays and the stress that ensues is overwhelming and they lack Christmas cheer because of it. According to a recent survey, 69% of people feel stressed about the lack of time and lack of money during the holiday season. 50% are stressed about the gift giving process. The most stressed generation are the Gen Xers at 62%, followed by the Boomers and Millennials at 61%. Holiday stress and anxiety are real. Many health experts believe the societal expectations that we’re supposed to be filled with peace, joy, and love during this season increases our stress because we feel guilty for not living up to those expectations. Holiday stress manifests itself in headaches, insomnia, exhaustion, digestive issues, and more, and can ultimately lead to cardiovascular disease and heart attacks. Holiday stress occurs for many reasons. For some it may be a reminder of a loved one lost during the year; for others the stress of entertaining may be too much; still others may stress over family issues that come to a head when everyone gathers together. Fortunately, there are a number of strategies you can employ to reduce your stress and enjoy your holiday to the fullest.
- Create boundaries. Discuss with family ahead of time what you can and cannot do with regards to holiday gifts, food, and travel; and stick with your plan to avoid feeling overwhelmed. It is okay to say no when it’s appropriate. Many people end up over committing and stretching themselves too thin, trying to fit every activity in. It’s important to focus on the most important activities and to schedule downtime during the holidays, as well to rejuvenate and rest so you don’t get burned out.
- Be aware of your emotions. When you actively observe your thoughts and feelings you can understand where the stress is coming from and manage it more effectively. Make time each day for relaxing activities like yoga or meditation–such as a 20-minute BrainTap break. Even a simple, quiet walk can do wonders to soothe your mind and get your emotional well-being in check.
- Make sleep a priority. This can be a challenging one when you’re rushing from activity to activity, cooking, cleaning, surprising the kids, and more. Remember, your brain and body heal during the sleep cycle. If your sleep is limited or poor quality, you miss out on this restorative process and become less focused, less resilient, and less able to manage holiday stress and anxiety.
- Let go of that picture of perfection. People are not perfect. The holidays are not going to be perfect either–no matter what the Hallmark Channel tries to tell us. As families grow and change, traditions and rituals will change and adapt. Accept the people in your life as they are, even if they don’t live up to your expectations. Set aside arguments for more appropriate times and be understanding if things don’t work out the way you pictured them. That will go a long way to reducing the load you carry during the holidays.
- Practice healthy habits. During the holidays there are a lot of temptations placed in our paths. It’s okay to indulge as long as you try not to overindulge, which leads to stress and negative emotions. Have a healthy snack before a party, to limit overeating, drink plenty of fresh water to keep hydrated, alternate alcoholic beverages with a non-alcoholic beverage to limit consumption, and exercise every day.