The holiday season is upon us. This means a time for joy, celebration and reuniting with family and friends. While this may be true, the holidays can also bring increased stress and anxiety. Long, chaotic shopping trips, multiple obligations, lack of time and unforeseen travel days can leave us feeling frazzled.
According to a poll by the American Psychological Association, nearly a quarter of Americans report feeling “extreme stress” during the holidays. Up to 69 percent are stressed by the feeling of a “lack of time,” 69 percent are stressed by perceiving a “lack of money,” and 51 percent feel stressed over the “pressure to give gifts.”
The pressure, tension, worry, fear and anxiety often perceived when stressed (especially during the holidays), can take a toll on one’s overall health and wellbeing. It can weaken your immune system and leave you more susceptible to infection. It can contribute to health problems, such as headaches, sleep disorders, exhaustion, high blood pressure, heart disease and even heart attacks.
Protect your health this holiday season and take a moment to think about what triggers stress for you. Just focusing on one or two things at a time can help, and hopefully leave you feeling merry and bright!
Below are 10 strategies to help you take on the holiday season with less stress:
- Spend wisely. Set a spending limit and stick to it. You don’t want the added stress of paying off gifts throughout the year.
- Get creative. You can show love and care with homemade gifts. This may take a little extra time, but if you plan early, it can really save money.
- Share the to-do list. Don’t take everything on by yourself. Recruit family members to help decorate, wrap gifts or prepare the holiday meal. It’s a wonderful way to spend quality time together while tackling your to-do list.
- Keep moving. Regular exercise is not only good for our bodies, it has a positive impact on our emotional wellbeing. It promotes a relaxed state of mind and boosts self-esteem, which can help with depression and anxiety during the holidays.
- Set realistic expectations. Everyone wants that perfect celebration, but unfortunately, everything does not always go as planned. Going all out on decorations, cooking that involved homemade recipe and overcommitting can take a toll. Do yourself a favor this year and have a simple, festive season.
- Take care of yourself. Unfortunately, the more stressed we become, the less we typically take care of ourselves. This may take time away from holiday preparations, but it is better than burning out. You could get massage, listen to soothing music, read a book, drink herbal tea, or do any other relaxing activity that brings you peace.
- Let go. The weather, traffic and actions of other people are uncontrollable. When we fight what is out of our control, we often end up feeling miserable and stressed. Give yourself permission this season to let go and move forward. For starters, try taking deep breath.
- When stress is high or you’re feeling anxious, pause for a moment and breathe. Take a deep breath in through the nose, hold it for a few seconds, then exhale through your mouth. The time it takes to exhale should be about twice what it takes to inhale. Repeat until you find a steady rhythm. Focusing on your breath calms your nervous system; you will feel the stress slowly start to dissipate.
- Practice gratitude. Spend some time reflecting on the blessings in your life. You can start today by writing down three good things that happened over the past couple of days. Express your appreciation directly to loved ones or friends. You all can feel the joy of connection.
- Enjoy yourself. The holidays are a time to relax and spend time with family and friends. Focus on the positives: good company, great food and holiday music.