Now that the holidays are here, you are right in the middle of experiencing the “rush” of a lot of fun and happy celebrations. But as we all painfully do know, sometimes the holidays can also bring difficult emotional triggers, such as painful memories, grief for family members who can’t be with us, or challenging dynamics with family members who are with us. Holiday stress can also involve long to-do lists and financial strain to make things even worse.
By no means am I trying to bum out the holiday season. Quite the opposite. Whether you have specific and unique reasons or not that can interfere with a happy holiday, we all go through some kind of stress during the month of December. The reasons can be simple or complex. Time pressures, money pressures, and family pressures seem to come together into a “perfect storm” and sometimes it’s really important to take some caution so that you can enjoy and yet keep your health and sanity too. That’s why I am suggesting some self–care precautions to get us through the holiday season and make it safely to 2019!
6 Ways to Conquer Holiday Stress
1. Take some time just for yourself
It is really just so easy to feel lost and overwhelmed during the prep and execution of the holiday hubbub. First, you may have a work event that you are attending and that may not always be something you look forward to and actually enjoy.
While it’s nice to get together socially on occasion with coworkers away from the office, some pressure and judgements can be involved as to your behavior. It means you can’t fully relax and for some that’s enough to make their blood pressure rise. A holiday party isn’t exactly like a company softball game where you get dirty, informal, and actually try to strike the boss out with your best pitch. It’s a little more formal and may feel like you’re appearing before the U.S. Supreme Court in some cases.
That’s a good reason to seek out some quiet space from time to time where you can collect your thoughts and re-center yourself as need be. That’s true before, during, and after any event that you have any reservations about when you participate in. Take time for yourself and decompress.
2. Cut your anxiety by taking a few deep breaths
When it comes to a family get together, the holiday season usually triggers some kind of anxiety. One of those is what is called “the comparison trap”. Don’t get caught up in that game. There isn’t any contest I know of where the one who has the biggest most gaudy and expensive holiday celebration wins and if that’s what others are into, then do as The Beatles once said and “Let It Be”!
Anxiety can also be worry about family interactions or just plain old holiday stress. That’s why stepping back and taking a few deep breaths gives you a good sense of anxiety relief.
When you feel your heart racing or breathing quickening, then it is probably a good time to slow down and take those deep breaths. Breathing gently and deeply in moments of holiday stress gives you permission to let go of all of the distractions around you and just breathe. Even if it’s just a few moments, it will help tons.
3. Handle any difficult family interactions
The holiday season can mean being around some people who you may not see all year long. Sometimes it’s because of distance, but the truth is it can also be because you avoid them because of past hurt and unpleasant experiences. It may be the time to heal wounds, but if it’s not, then you need to make sure you take steps to get the support you need from others to get through these situations. Talk to a loved one and tell them how you are feeling before the pressure of a stressful meeting takes place.
4. Be careful with overdoing holiday food and drink
The holidays are filled with fun gatherings and parties and you know what that usually means. It means a food and drink orgy and lots and lots of alcohol will be around. You may even be tempted to use drugs and alcohol to take the edge off of holiday stress or as a form of joyful celebration. Avoid that like the plague for all the obvious reasons.
Should you decide to have some alcohol, have a reasonable personal limit that is both healthy and realistic. Check yourself before you make a conscious decision about your usage and to know when it is time to take a break. Ask your close family or friends and listen to them when they give you a heads up about it. Needless to say, don’t drive after you drink. Your life and others could be at risk.
When it comes to food, you might feel like it’s perfectly ok to stuff yourself with all of those delicious holiday treats. You may feel it’s only polite to try your great aunt’s special cherry pie or your sister’s turkey stuffing or sweet potato casserole. Uh, maybe you should place a few limits on being polite here, or limit yourself to just a small taste.
Try to find some balance for yourself by enjoying special holiday food, while also paying attention to your body’s cues of hunger, fullness, and satiation. Check in with yourself from time to time to ask whether you are eating because your body is hungry or whether you are eating as a reaction to some form of stress. Politeness has to take a back seat to all of the above.
5. Grieve during the holidays if you are missing a loved one
You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t miss someone, especially during a time when they would have been right there beside you like the holidays. Sharing favorite memories of a loved one who is missed during the holiday season can be a wonderful way to express your love and help ease the pain. Joy and sadness can and often do exist in the same moments. So don’t keep those feelings hidden inside.
6. Don’t spend more than you can handle
There’s a tendency to spend more than you have as a “special exception” because of the holidays. Try to avoid that at all costs, as you’ll be stuck with a debt hangover in January when the credit card bills come rolling in.
Whether it’s spending on gifts, decorations, or holiday dinners, be creative. See what you can make at home, or buy from the dollar store (wrapping, cards, and decorations are great deals). Ask family members to bring a dish. Set limits on gift exchanges. A little can go a long way so don’t overdo. And if things are still tight, then now is the time to look at your finances and get them in order for next year.
For more tips on easing holiday stress, check out my classic post from 2015.
Keeping a strong sense of self during the holidays will give you a sense of security during the ups and downs of the season. Holidays are supposed to be enjoyed and even though they come sometimes with some baggage, they will soon pass and before you know it you’ll be pining for them to come quickly because you want to do it all over again. Be kind to yourself and those around you and have the very best of happy holidays!
Do you feel extra stress during the holiday season? What ways do you cope?