10 Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress
Whenever a holiday is coming we can get a little nervous. We think about the family, gatherings, food, decorations and many other things. Feeling that we have a lot of responsibility is something very common that happens to many people. Nevertheless, we must remember that being at peace with ourselves will be the best option to cope with these special days.
Some people look forward to holidays like Christmas and New Years, where we celebrate with lots of food and lots of people, but sometimes these moments can be stressful, and that is not surprising at all. The holidays always demand time and attention to detail: celebration plans, shopping, baking, cleaning, and entertaining, just to name a few.
However, while stress is a normal feeling, it can also affect your health. Actually, long-term stress can contribute to or worsen various health issues, including digestive disorders, headaches, sleep disorders, and other symptoms. For example, stress can make asthma worse and has even been linked to depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.
That’s why it is important to pay attention to the signs and learn how to deal with minor and major stress events in order to know how to handle them and when to seek help. Also, remember that your health is important and your peace of mind is necessary to be able to cope with some loads of stress that these days of celebrations bring with them.
I am going to share 10 tips that may be useful for you to manage stress during the holidays:
Accept your feelings
If someone close to you has recently died, you couldn’t travel to see your family this year and vice versa, maybe you’re working out of town and cannot spend the holidays with your loved ones, or probably there is some other reason, remember that it is normal to feel sadness and anguish.
It’s okay to take some time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season, but remember that you have other tools that can help you:
- Make a video call to stay in touch with your loved ones
- Plan a movie night with some friends or family members
- Practice a hobby that you really enjoy
- Be grateful for the good things
If you feel lonely or isolated, look for a community, religious or other social events. Many may have websites, online support groups, social networking sites, or virtual events. These are also great alternatives to reduce stress and loneliness during the holidays.
Another option is to talk to a friend or family member about what is bothering you. It’s ok to ask people for support, don’t feel bad about it.
Try to connect through text, a call, or facetime. Also, volunteering or doing something to help others is also a good idea to encourage yourself and make new friends. For example, consider bringing a friend a meal or dessert at their house for the holidays.
Keep it real
The holidays don’t have to be perfect or exactly like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Pick a few that you want to keep, and agree to create new ones. For example, if your adult children or other family members can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, like sharing photos, emails, or videos. Or see each other virtually on a video call. Even if your holiday plans are different this year, you can find ways to celebrate.
Ignore the differences
Try to accept your family and friends for who they are, even if they don’t meet all of your expectations. Ignore grievances until you have a more appropriate time to discuss them, and be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes wrong. They may also be suffering from the effects of holiday stress and maybe depression.
Stick to a budget
Before buying gifts and food, decide how much money you can spend. Then limit yourself to that amount. Don’t try to buy happiness with a bunch of gifts. Try these alternatives:
- Donate to a charity in the name of a loved one
- Give away things you made yourself
- Start a gift exchange in the family
Plan specific days for shopping, baking, connecting with friends, and other activities. Consider if you can do any of your purchases online. Plan menus, and then prepare a shopping list. This will help you avoid having to rush to buy ingredients you forgot. Make sure you have help to prepare the food, and to clean up afterward.
Learn to say no
Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you cannot participate in all projects or activities. If it is not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, he tries to remove something else from your list for that day in order to make up for lost time.
Don’t give up your healthy habits
Don’t let the holidays become an occasion for excess. This is only going to add more stress and guilt. Try these suggestions:
- Eat a healthy snack before meals at parties so you don’t overdo it with sweets, cheeses, or drinks.
- Eat healthy foods
- Sleep well
- Include physical activity in your daily routine
- Try deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga
- Avoid excessive consumption of tobacco, alcohol and drugs
- Consider how information culture can create too much stress, and adjust the time you spend reading the news and social media as necessary
It’s ok to take a break
Make time for yourself. Spend some alone time. Enjoy a moment without distractions, all this can refresh you enough to tackle whatever you need. Find something to reduce stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing, and restoring your inner peace. Some options could be: going for a walk at night and looking at the stars, listening to soft music or reading a book.
Seek professional help if you need it
Despite your efforts, you may find yourself feeling sad or anxious, beset by physical problems, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, unable to cope with routine tasks, etc. If these feelings persist or last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
My final thoughts
We know holidays can be stressful, but you can minimize stress if you put all these pillars together. Trust me, they can help you. I personally try to be at peace, happy and hopeful during these times, but do you also want to know what helps me a big deal? PRAY. When I pray in the morning, I experience a feeling of peace and patience that gives me the strength to continue with my day.
I think that sometimes it is very difficult to heal when you are in an environment that makes you sick, and in that situation it would be important to set emotional boundaries to protect your mental health.
On previous holidays I just wanted everything to be perfect, but then I realized it’s not really about that, it’s about cherishing the moments you have with your loved ones. There’s just something special when you stop worrying a lot and focus on family. Try and see, you will notice that you are happier with yourself and will surely practice gratitude with greater joy.
A healthy reminder
Being sad or stressed is not the same as being depressed. But if you have a feeling of constant sadness, pessimism, helplessness, guilt, that you are worthless, of lack of interest in activities that previously interested you like lack of energy, constantly feel tired, have difficulty concentrating, making decisions, have difficulty sleeping, you may wake up in the middle of the night or you may sleep too much, but never feel rested, you could suffer from depression.
You could either lose your appetite and lose weight or overeat and gain weight. You could feel irritable and you could even have some physical symptoms such as headache or stomach pain that do not respond to the treatment that your doctor gives you and for which they have not found an organic cause. In extreme cases you may have had suicidal thoughts. All described here are symptoms of depression.
A person does not have to have all of the symptoms or wait for them to be severe. If you notice that you have some of them, especially if it is interfering with your daily activities (your work, your school, your social activities or your relationships with other people) it is very important that you seek help from a qualified mental health professional. If you don’t know anyone, your doctor can refer you.