Beat Holiday Stress: 12 Holiday stressors you can overcome
The holiday season is not always filled with joy and laughter. Over 38% of Americans admit to having increased stress during the holidays. The weeks between Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day can easily become overwhelming, and negatively impact your mental health. Recognizing common holiday stressors and having a strategy to overcome them can make this holiday season your most enjoyable.
Stressor #1: Too Many Activities
There is an excitement that hits when we see red and green decorations filling the stores, and hear the sounds of “Jingle Bells” in the air. So many things you want to do and so little time to fit it all in. Office parties and school Christmas plays can quickly fill up your day planner. Being overcommitted easily becomes a big holiday stressors. Even activities that are fun can lead to increase stress!
The key to overcoming this stressor is knowing your limits and learning how to say “no.” Set a limit on how many events you will attend each week. Use an online calendar that can quickly update everyone’s schedule automatically. Focus on scheduling in times to relax and unwind, as well as times of fun.
Stressor #2: Finances
Bank accounts begin to dwindle toward the end of each year, and credit cards debt climbs. This often leaves people regretting their spending decisions, couples arguing about finances around the holiday season — and ultimately produces an avalanche of stress.
Budgeting is vital to reducing this stressor. Plan how you will utilize each paycheck. Assign specific dollar amounts for gifts, groceries, travel, and utilities. Consider alternative gift options like gift exchanges or gifts of service. Surprise someone with the gift of your time and talents. Decrease eating out, which may help not only your wallet but also your waistline!
Stressor #3: Family Gatherings
Visiting with extended family members can be a real blessing — but sometimes too much togetherness can become a source of stress. Gatherings should leave you feeling refreshed by the love shared not depleted from having to referee.
Every family has internal dynamics and personality clashes, which can lead to tension. Identify which family members are the most volatile when coming together. Set a time to discuss any issues prior to the event. If relatives cannot agree on a truce for the gathering, it may be necessary to have them come at different times! Keeping the peace will go a long way to making family time enjoyable for everyone involved.
Stressor #4: Memories
Memories can be treasures of the heart, or they can become a source of pain. If you have lost a loved one, you may find the memories of past holidays unbearableleading to depression and loneliness.
Surround yourself with others. Visit places where people are active and happy. Participate in activities that make you happy. Honor the memory of those lost but do not dwell on the negative. Focus on the good memories and continue to build new, enjoyable experiences.
Stressor #5: Overindulgence
With the increase in festivities there is often an increase in weight. Overextended schedules leave little time, so your daily exercise routine may be the first thing to go in order to make room for all the holiday fun. A decrease in exercise combined with an increase in rich desserts can lead to the stress of having to deal with an inevitable weight gain.
Moderation is the best way to enjoy eating grandma’s pecan pie and still fit into your jeans by New Year’s Day. Resist the desire to abandon good eating and exercise habits during the holidays. Do not allow this season to become a vacation from a healthy lifestyle.
Stressor #6: Gift Shopping
Time is limited. Each year you get the same 30 days between Black Friday and Christmas, but it is not necessary to limit your holiday activities to this time frame. Trying to find gifts for every aunt, uncle, niece and nephew can seem daunting when you have so little time and so many options.
Make out your Christmas list as early as possible. Brainstorm to come up with gifts those on your list make enjoy. Scan weekly sales papers for deals on those items and purchase your gifts early. Many companies have a 90-day return policywhich gives you permission to change you mind if you find something better. But before you return anything, see if it may be a good gift for someone else on your list!
Stressor #7: Holiday Celebration Planning
As much fun as those gatherings are, someone has to plan, cook, and clean. If that someone is you, then these gatherings may become a huge stress factor.
Do not try to do it all by yourself. Know when to ask for help, and be willing to let others help you. Alleviate the need to have things exactly the way you would do them, and accept that others may do the same job in a different way. Plan in advance, but remain flexible – rigidity can cause you to “break” under when pressure! Being able to readily adapt to changes will help you “go with the flow” — enabling you to enjoy your event more.
Stressor #8: Travel
Traveling is stressful on both ends. Whether you are the one in transit, or if you are the one hosting a guest, travel can become a source of increased anxiety and stress. Packing, traffic, and airport lines are never fun activities, but often a necessary part of the holiday for many. If you are traveling with kids this becomes even more stressful.
Planning ahead is your ticket to reducing this stressor. Purchase airline seats and hotel rooms as soon as possible. Map out a primary and an alternative route when driving to your destination. Pack lots of fun books, games, and snacks for the kids in their own backpacks they can carry. Do not be afraid to limit the amount of days guests can stay with you — or recommend they stay at a hotel if you feel you need your space.
Stressor #9: Work-Family Balance
The added pressure of increased spending often brings with it the desire to increase work to compensate. Part-time jobs and extra shifts can quickly start pulling you away from family, and end up stretching your balance limits.
Remember your priorities. Determine ahead of time what days you desire to spend with you family. Solidify your work schedule as soon as possible, and discuss it with your family. Plan activities around your schedule, so you don’t have to miss out on the fun.
Stressor #10: Children
Children can play a factor in your holiday stress. Many moms find themselves not only having to manage the holiday cooking, shopping, and cleaning, but also planning entertainment for the little ones who are at home for Christmas break. After your kids have viewed a myriad of toy commercials on television, you may also find yourself being bombarded with last minute “must-have” toy requests for Santa.
Alleviate this holiday stressor by setting realistic expectations with your children. Discuss with them the true meaning of Christmas. Explain that they may not get every toy they ask for. Start each day of their Christmas break with a tentative schedule. Allow your children to be active in the planning of events. Give them projects they can do, like coloring and addressing Christmas cards. Let your children know they are a vital part of the family holiday fun.
Stressor #11: Commercialism
It’s easy to become pulled into the commercialism of the holiday season. From stores decorating earlier each year to the hundreds of emails about Black Friday deals, you can quickly find yourself drowning in the chaos of the holiday season frenzy. You may not be able to avoid these amped-up attempts to increase frivolous spending, but you can be prepared to fight back.
Don’t allow gifts to be the central focus on your holiday gatherings. Reflect on the spiritual significance of the season and focus your gatherings on the time spent with family. Find someone less fortunate to bless. Adopting a family to assist or volunteering at a shelter can help you remember the spirit of love and selflessness that is the hallmark of Christmas.
Stressor #12: Perfectionism
Your childhood fantasies of a perfect Christmas may still be fresh in your mind, but don’t allow them to control your choices. From sending out hundreds of Christmas cards to baking cookies for Santa, some holiday traditions may have become more of a time consuming cliché than an activity you find enjoyable.
Your holiday should be based on your family’s personal likes and needs, not on someone else’s idea of a perfect Christmas. Determine which traditions offer you the most positive benefit and eliminate superfluous activities done out of obligation. Ignore the hype centered on the holidays and focus on the true reason for the season. Keeping things simple just may be the change needed to help you stress-less this Christmas!
Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith is a board-certified internal medicine physician and the author of Set Free to Live Free: Breaking Through the 7 Lies Women Tell Themselves. You can find her online at www.drdaltonsmith.com, and www.setfreetolivefreebook.com.