8 Tips to Manage Holiday Stress
The holidays are supposed to be a joyful, peaceful time of year, but many people find that the season brings more stress than relaxation. If you struggle with stress during the holidays, you’re not alone. Family issues can come to the surface as you prepare for holiday gatherings, financial worries can weigh on your mind, and the cold and dark weather can affect your mental health. There are so many causes of holiday stress that can prevent you from enjoying yourself.
If you’re prone to holiday stress, it’s important to approach the season with effective stress management strategies. You may not be able to avoid your stressors, but you can prevent them from taking a toll on your mental health.
Here Are Eight Holiday Stress Tips to Keep You Happy and Healthy Through the Season
1. Think About What Really Matters
Identifying your values and priorities is the key to having a stress-free holiday season. No one has the time or energy to fully embrace every single aspect of the holidays, so focusing on what matters to you will help you find joy and avoid burnout. If you value quality time with your family, scheduling family gatherings should be your priority. If you find meaning and purpose in gift giving, allow yourself plenty of time for shopping. If religion is important to you, be sure to give yourself time and space for your religious observances. It’s always okay to say no to activities you don’t value in favor of ones that truly add joy to your life.
2. Plan Your Schedule
A hectic schedule is a major contributor to holiday stress. Family gatherings, work parties, and other obligations can take up most of your free time during the holidays. Planning your schedule far in advance will help you navigate the business of the holiday season without feeling chaotic. Put all of your upcoming events in your phone or on a paper calendar, and set reminders so that you have plenty of time to prepare. If possible, try not to commit to more than one event in a day. Also, feel free to decline last-minute invitations, especially if they’re disruptive to your schedule.
3. Set Boundaries
Family conflict is one of the most common causes of holiday stress. Some people completely dread the holiday season because they have to face toxic relatives or deal with dysfunctional family dynamics. As you prepare for the holiday season, try to set clear and firm boundaries to protect your own mental health. For instance, you might decide that you’re willing to go to a family member’s home for a gathering but that you don’t want your extended family to enter your home. It can also be helpful to set boundaries about what topics you will and won’t discuss with your family. Enforcing boundaries can feel uncomfortable, but it’s essential for your own peace of mind.
4. Schedule Downtime
The holiday season is inevitably busy, but you still need to take time to relax. If you’re the type of person to accept all invitations and pack your schedule with events, you should add regular downtime to your calendar. Commit to one day a week without any social obligations, or schedule a relaxing solo activity each weekend. Taking a break may have to be a conscious, intentional choice for you during the holidays, but it’s one of the best ways to reduce holiday stress.
5. Allow Imperfection
Sometimes, a fear of judgment from others is the root of holiday stress. You might worry that you can’t bake the perfect cookies for your work party or that your home isn’t flawlessly decorated like a photo in a magazine. The holidays are extremely demanding, and expecting perfection from yourself will only lead to anxiety. No one is perfect, and no one navigates the holidays perfectly. Embrace what you’re good at and what you enjoy, and let everything else go. If someone judges you, it’s most likely a reflection of their own insecurities.
6. Stay Physically Healthy
Mental and physical health are closely linked, so maintaining your physical health is a great way to ward off holiday stress. You should absolutely indulge in the holiday treats you love without guilt, but you also shouldn’t let your self-care fall to the wayside. Make sure you’re eating balanced, healthy meals and drinking plenty of water. Wash your hands frequently to avoid getting sick, especially when you’re spending a lot of time around others. Sleep is critical for reducing stress during the holidays, too. You may need to sleep a little more than usual if you’re feeling exhausted from errands and social obligations.
7. Practice Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is a great holiday stress reliever because you can practice it anywhere and anytime. If you’re feeling anxious or uncomfortable during a family party, excuse yourself to the bathroom and take some deep breaths. If you’re stressed while waiting in line at the supermarket, focus on your breathing. Deep breathing calms your nervous system down and reduces the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety, which can also help soothe your mind. Also, when you focus your attention on your breath, you distract yourself from your stressors. Try practicing deep breathing when you already feel calm so that the technique is easier to access when your stress levels start to elevate.
8. Talk to a Therapist
Holiday stress isn’t easy to manage on your own, especially if you have a history of mental health issues, trauma, or family dysfunction. This time of year can bring up some particularly difficult emotions. If you’re struggling to keep your holiday stress under control, therapy can help. You probably spend the holiday season worrying about everyone and everything besides yourself, so counseling is your opportunity to focus on your own needs.
Menachem Psychotherapy Group offers counseling for stress management and a wide variety of other mental health goals. Contact us today to connect with a therapist in Los Angeles.