Don’t Let Holiday Stress Ruin the Fun

Ready, set, celebrate! As the holidays approach, many people start feeling the pressure to prepare for the whirlwind season — decorating, prepping for parties, shopping, gift-wrapping and cooking.

But what if there’s already way too much hustle and bustle in your life? Are you wondering how you’ll ever find time to deck the halls?

Well, you’re not alone. According to a survey by Verywell Mind, more than 80% of us rank the holiday season as “somewhat” stressful or “very” stressful.

The National Institute of Mental Health defines stress as how the brain and body respond to any type of demand, such as exercise, work, school, life changes or traumatic events.

If the demands of the holiday season trigger stress for you, you might experience these symptoms:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Impatience
  • Increased alcohol or substance use
  • Poor eating habits

Over time, stress can impact your body and mental health. But not all stress is bad. Learn how to manage stress, stay motivated and enjoy the holidays.

Keep joy in your holidays

Holiday stress doesn’t have to steal your joy. The American Psychological Association identifies these common holiday stressors and offers tips about how to cope with them.

Gift-giving. The holidays are a giving season. You may want to be generous with your friends and family, but sometimes finding the right gifts can be overwhelming. Start by making a list and sticking to it. Keep gifts simple. Remember, your relationships with family and friends are what matter, not material things.

Financial stress. Gift-giving, traveling and entertaining can strain your finances. Before the holidays, set a reasonable budget and stick to it. Buying items you cannot afford increases stress. If needed, don’t be afraid to scale back on your holiday shopping. Instead, focus on spending quality time with friends and family. Maybe that means taking a family hike outdoors or visiting a homebound relative.

Stressful conversation. It’s common for stressful topics to drift into conversations at holiday parties and family dinners. Differences in opinion about family issues, politics or religion can strain relationships. To reduce this type of stress, the American Psychological Association recommends:

  • Finding areas where you agree
  • Being kind and respectful
  • Being willing to listen to opposing views
  • Calmly stating your opinion and accepting that you may not be able to change the other person’s mind
  • Planning activities that bring people together, such as games or looking through old photo albums

Unrealistic expectations. You may dream of a white Christmas or the perfect Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. But of course, no holiday celebration is perfect. Your cookies may burn or the lights around your home may burn out. Learn how to manage your expectations and realize you can’t control everything. If you have children with wish lists that exceed your budget, manage their expectations too. Remind children that the holidays are not about expensive gifts.

Tips to reduce holiday stress and have fun

To be more realistic and reduce holiday stress, try these tips:

  • Take shortcuts. Decide what holiday traditions are most important to you. Maybe you’ll send fewer cards or buy a dessert from the bakery instead of making it yourself.
  • Set a realistic schedule. Have fun during the holiday season, but don’t plan too many activities in one week. You or your family might need some downtime. If you run out of time for an activity you enjoy, don’t stress about it. Simply reschedule it for January.
  • Keep up healthy habits. Enjoy holiday treats, but don’t overindulge. If you drink alcohol, do it in moderation. Also, get at least seven hours of sleep a night.
  • Exercise or take a walk every day. Physical activity helps relieve stress.
  • Volunteer or donate to charity. Psychologists say helping others lifts your mood and helps put your own struggles in perspective.
  • Seek support from friends and family. Talking helps you sort out your feelings and work toward solutions.

Instead of dreading the busy holidays, psychologists suggest looking at the season as an opportunity to take care of yourself and enhance your well-being. Find simple ways to enjoy yourself and the company of friends and family. Happy holidays!