The holidays offer plenty of reasons to feel stressed and anxious — the gifts you haven’t wrapped, the pile of cookie exchange invites, the office parties, the “to do” list on top of your “to do” list. For many, family also becomes a major source of stress — the family dinner, the obligations, and the burden of family tradition. We offer some tips below to help beat holiday stress:
Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings.
Manage family-caused stress. For others, being with family can be the most stressful part of the holidays. If some of your relatives have always acted out or made you feel bad, chances are that won’t change. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself. Know what you’re getting into and have a plan. Practice forgiveness and acceptance this holiday season. Graciously thank your relatives for their misguided attention. If things get uncomfortable, take a break: go to a movie, take a long walk or drive and clear your mind. It’s also okay set to limits on your time at family events: arrive a little later or leave early. You don’t have to be there every minute.
Plan ahead. Make a budget and a gift shopping list to follow when you’re out buying presents. Money is considered the most stressful factor for Americans, even more so than work or family, according to a recent poll from the American Psychological Association. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus, then make your shopping list. And don’t hesitate to ask for help with party prep and cleanup.
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 can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say “no” when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
Take a breather. Make some time for yourself, especially during those moments when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, will refresh you before you tackle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
Some options may include:
o Taking a walk at night and gazing at the stars.
o Listening to soothing music.
o Getting a massage.
o Reading a book.
Practice good self-care. During the holiday season, you’re more likely to be stressed out by obligations and errands. It’s cold and flu season and your immune system is under assault. It’s getting dark earlier each day. You’re eating worse, sleeping less, and drinking more. Check in with yourself regularly and ask, “What do I need to take care of myself?” Make a concerted effort to get enough rest and eat healthfully when you’re not celebrating the holidays. Get your hair done professionally for a holiday gathering or get a massage or facial at the spa to relax and take care of yourself.
Discover the joys of small things. During the holidays, what preparations and traditions make you happy? Baking cookies, wrapping presents, decorating, listing to holiday music while addressing cards or creating hand-made gifts? Experience the joy in those activities, rather than treating them as another thing to cross off your holiday “to do” list. They can be both meditative and creative at the same time.
Be realistic and remember what’s important. Try not to put pressure on yourself to create the perfect holiday for your family. Focus instead on the traditions that make holidays special for you. The barrage of holiday advertising can make you forget what makes the holiday season truly meaningful. When your holiday expense list is running longer than your budget and items on your “to do” list can’t possibly get done, it’s okay scale back and remind yourself that what makes a great celebration is loved ones, not store-bought presents, elaborate decorations or gourmet food.
Enjoy the moment. In the holiday rush, don’t forget to take a moment, be present and find the joy in the holiday season. Wonderful moments can occur at any time: sharing a cup of holiday coffee with a friend, a memorable religious service, watching a favorite holiday movie, or suddenly hearing a favorite holiday song. Stop for a moment and don’t forget to feel the joy of the season!