They say it’s the season to be merry. For many of us, however, managing holiday stress is a serious challenge. For around 70% of Americans, according to the American Psychological Association, the holiday season is a time of anxiety and tension.
And that was before dealing with the additional challenges brought on by the global pandemic. Some of us are faced with celebrating the holidays only with our household or limited to outdoor-only visits with family members we would normally gather with for a big meal and celebration.
For those of us lucky enough to gather with our immediate and extended family, the holiday stress could lead to overeating, too much alcohol, arguments, not getting enough sleep and generally neglecting your needs. During this time, it’s important to stay calm and look after yourself. Make an effort to nurture your mind and spirit. With the right self-care, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the festive season the way you really deserve.
Don’t overcommit yourself
It often feels like there’s so much to do during the holidays. If you feel a lot of pressure to buy gifts, bring fancy dishes and attend every party, you will inevitably end up feeling overwhelmed.
You may have to learn to say no, which can be hard. However, it’s important to scale back what you plan to do and take responsibility for. Don’t take on too much, and ask for help when you need it. This year, allow yourself to do less, and enjoy more.
Be honest about your needs
Each person has unique expectations for the holiday season. In our own ways, we become tense when people’s wants or needs differ and compromises aren’t made. If you’re worried about how an event will play out, take the time to calmly and clearly make your desires known.
For instance, if you predict that you’ll be overwhelmed by the intensity of your big multi-day family Christmas, explain this to your mom. Let her know that you might need to clear your head sometimes by slipping away for quiet walks. This way, she will know what to expect and not make a big deal out of it when you do.
Communicate with non-family guests
Bringing a new boyfriend or girlfriend to a family holiday event is a milestone in any relationship. If you’re in that position this year, make sure you make your family’s holiday culture clear to your partner to avoid any unnecessary faux pas. Remember that each family’s holiday traditions are different.
If you’re attending your partner’s family holiday celebrations for the first time, ask them for pointers so you can prepare yourself and get on the same page. Be sure to find out about their family’s culture around gift giving to avoid any unnecessary awkward moments.
Take breaks when you need
One of the most stressful parts of the holiday season is how it can feel like all go, all the time. Mindfulness is a great strategy for boosting well-being and managing holiday stress.
When you wake up in the mornings, close your eyes, take several deep breaths and meditate or simply relax. Imagine yourself somewhere quiet and calm. Taking the time to properly relax before you get out of bed can help you enter the day in a healthy headspace.
Whenever you get stressed out, overwhelmed or anxious, take quick relaxation breaks. These only need to be a couple of minutes long and you can do them anywhere. Simply close your eyes and take the time for conscious, slow breathing.
Indulge in moderation
Holiday food is delicious. And, as we all know, the season has a reputation for indulgence. While you’ll be constantly tempted with sugary treats, try to stick to a reasonable diet. Of course, you can still treat yourself. Take polite servings of comfort food and drinks. Enjoy yourself! After all, your favourite holiday foods are often good for the soul.
But remember, eating enough fruits, vegetables, lean protein and complex carbs will help to keep your energy stable. This will improve your mood and give you the energy to get through the busy days of the holiday season.
Read also: Four best teas to ease stress
Get some exercise – preferably outside
When you’re stressed out, blowing off some steam with a workout is a great idea. It will get your endorphins pumping and help you feel better. Research shows that exercise can reduce anger, tension, fatigue, and boost your mood for up to 12 hours.
This is particularly important if the gym is already a core part of your routine. According to research, when regular exercisers are inactive, they begin to feel depressed after only one week.
If you can get your workout done outside, then that’s even better. Getting some sun stimulates the production of vitamin D and serotonin. These chemicals help to relieve seasonal depression, which impacts millions of people every year. Plus, being around nature and trees is shown to improve well-being and soothe the mind.
Be kind, understanding and generous
During these difficult times, it’s all the more important to appreciate our families. Don’t let yourself forget the holiday season is about cherishing what we’re lucky enough to have.
Try to see the best in everyone and recognise that these are stressful times. Keep a relaxed mind and spirit, and strive to infuse positivity and joy into the room whenever you can. Emit a loving energy, help out with cooking or cleaning, and enjoy spending quality time with the people you love. This is one of the most tried and true ways to keep calm, content and cheerful during the festive season.