Managing The Seemingly Inevitable Holiday Season Stress

Holiday Stress Relief is On The Way!

Welcome to the holiday season — that whirlwind of gift-giving holidays, marketing blitzes, holiday parties and activities galore that begins right after Halloween, builds to Thanksgiving, and continues gaining momentum through the end of the year.

While this season is meant to bring feelings of love and cheer, it’s also the harbinger of holiday stress for many. In fact, more than 80% of us find the holiday season to be ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ stressful — that ranks navigating the holidays right up there with asking for a raise! What is it that has us all so hot and bothered?

What Causes Holiday Stress

  • Doing Too Much
    All things in moderation, as the saying goes. The problem with the holiday season is that we often experience too much of a good thing. While stress itself is necessary for our survival and zest for life, too much stress has a negative impact on our health, both mental and physical. Too many activities, even if they are fun activities, can culminate in too much holiday stress and leave us feeling frazzled, rather than fulfilled.
  • Eating, Drinking and Spending Too Much
    An overabundance of parties and gift-giving occasions lead many people to eat, drink, and be merry — often to excess. The temptation to overindulge in spending, rich desserts or alcohol can cause many people the lasting stress of dealing with consequences (debt, weight gain, memories of embarrassing behavior) that can linger long after the season is over. Also, in these more difficult financial times, finding affordable gifts can be stress in itself, and carrying holiday debt is a tradition that too many people unwittingly bring on themselves, and the stress that comes with it can last for months.
  • Too Much Togetherness
    The holidays are a time when extended families tend to gather. While this can be a wonderful thing, even the most close-knit families can overdose on togetherness, making it hard for family members to maintain a healthy balance between bonding and alone time. Many families also have ‘roles’ that each member falls into that have more to do with who individuals used to be rather than who they are today, which can sometimes bring more dread than love to these gatherings.
  • Not Enough Togetherness
    For those who don’t have these family issues, loneliness can be just as much of a problem.  As the world seems to be gathering with family, those who rely more on friends for support can feel deserted and alone.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
    An often unrecognized problem that comes with the holiday season is actually a by-product of the seasons changing from fall to winter. As daylight diminishes and the weather causes many of us to spend more time indoors, many people are affected to some degree by a type of depression known as seasonal affective disorder.  It’s a subtle, but very real condition that can cast a pall over the whole season and be a source of stress and unhappiness during a time that people expect to feel just the opposite.

Minimizing The Holiday Stress

The great thing about holiday stress is that it’s predictable. Unlike many other types of negative stress we encounter in life, we know when holiday stress will begin and end, and we can make plans to reduce the amount of stress we experience and the negative impact it has on us.

Here are some tips you can try to help reduce holiday stress before it begins so that it remains at a positive level, rather than an overwhelming one:

Set Your Priorities

Before you get overwhelmed by too many activities, it’s important to decide what traditions you really enjoy, while skipping the rest.

Take Shortcuts

If you can’t fathom the idea of skipping out on sending cards, baking, seeing people, and doing all of the stuff that usually runs you ragged, you may try  continuing these activities, but on a smaller scale.

Be Smart With Holiday Eating

During the holidays, we may want to look and feel great but there is so much temptation in the form of delicious food and break from our regular routine.  This year, do what you can to have some healthy food at hand for each meal, be aware of your intake, and practice mindful eating.

Change Your Expectations For Togetherness

With family and friends, it’s important to be aware of your limitations. Think back to previous years and try to pinpoint how much togetherness you and your family can take before feeling negative stress. Can you limit the number of parties you attend or throw, or the time you spend at each? Can you limit your time with family to a smaller timeframe that will still feel special and joyous, without draining you?

Set A Schedule

Putting your plans on paper can show you, in black and white, how realistic they are. If you find a time management planner and fill in the hours with your scheduled activities, being realistic and including driving time and down time, you will be able to see if you’re trying to pack in too much. Start with your highest priorities, so you will be able to eliminate the less important activities.

Breathe!

This sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes we forget to take deep breaths and really give our bodies the oxygen we need.  Merely stopping to take a few deep breaths can reduce your level of negative stress in a matter of minutes, too.

It’s all free, and it’s all fun. With a little planning and a few minor but significant changes, this holiday season can bring the love and joy it was meant to bring, and leave you feeling fulfilled rather than drained.

By Elizabeth Scott, M.S., About.com Guide

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