The Do’s and Don’ts for Dealing with Holiday Stress

Stressed woman during the holidays

No matter how you celebrate, you have probably already found yourself caught up in a holiday whirlwind of balancing all your regular responsibilities with new seasonal stressors and events. Despite the chaos that accompanies them, the holidays are all about relaxing and spending time with your loved ones. We have built a list of do’s and don’ts for managing your holiday stress and enjoying the season with your loved ones:

To Deal with Holiday Stress, DO…

1. Set Clear Expectations

Despite any amount of preparation, no holiday celebration will ever be perfect. Prepare yourself ahead of time for hiccups and missteps in your holiday plans. Prioritize the most meaningful things about your celebrations and focus on the good that comes out of that, rather than the burned cookies or the forgotten decorations. If you have children, setting expectations about their gifts will save both of you from disappointment later on; be realistic with your children about your budget, holiday expectations, and gratefulness.

2. Stay Active

It may feel counterintuitive to take time out of your busy holiday schedule to continue your regular exercise routine, but staying active can boost your endorphins and your mood! On warmer days, try to exercise outside to breathe the fresh air and experience the sunlight. On colder days, warm up inside with a creative workout plan. It is important to maintain healthy habits during the holidays so that during the new year you will find it easier to stay motivated.

3. Set Aside Time to Rest

Although the holiday season is about “resting,” it often feels like we ramp up rather than cut back. This year, make a concentrated effort to set aside time to actually relax. This should be time free of other responsibilities or guests – just time for you! Spend it reading a book, relaxing in the tub, or sleeping – whatever helps you unwind. You should specifically schedule this time on your calendar; otherwise, you will find that other tasks and responsibilities will keep pushing it out indefinitely.

4. Ask for Help

If you are feeling overwhelmed by everything you need to accomplish, do not be afraid to ask your friends and family for help. Your loved ones will be happy to pitch in to finish everything for your celebrations. If you find that your feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression are unrelenting, you may benefit from seeking professional help. Your physician can make a recommendation and refer you to a trusted mental health care provider.

To Deal with Holiday Stress, DON’T…

1. Be Bound by Your Traditions

Your family will grow and change each year, so let your traditions grow and change with you. Many people try to maintain the same holiday routines each year, but this can inadvertently cause stress and become less fun as schedules, preferences, and group dynamics shift. If family members are not able to commit to all the same activities they used to, don’t let it stress you out. Instead, consider shifting the time, the event details, and the guest list. This is also a great opportunity to welcome some new traditions into your home; research some new traditions and give them a try! There is no pressure for them to become permanent annual activities. The important part is to have fun with the loved ones that are celebrating with you.

2. Fail to Recognize Your Stressors and Mood Boosters

There are certain things that will stress you out more than others. Make it a priority to slow down and take a self-assessment. What stressors are the ones that get to you the most? Is it your family dynamics, finances, or hosting expectations? Whatever they are, recognize them and build safeguards for yourself. Plan ahead and have a list of happy thoughts ready in case you start to get overwhelmed. If you are already feeling tired or overburdened, you will know to skip over those topics for the night.

Similarly, there are certain things that will boost your mood, and you probably already have a good idea of what they are. Maybe it is an episode of your favorite TV show, taking the dog for a long walk, or time spent cuddled up with your family. Whatever it is that provides you with a rush of serotonin, make sure you give yourself the opportunity to experience it whenever you feel holiday stress creeping up.

3. Change Your Regular Routine

With all the extra holiday tasks on your plate, it can be tempting to throw out your list of regular responsibilities until after the new year. However, keeping your regular routine can be important to managing stress during the holidays. These regular tasks, like laundry, exercising, and errands can keep you grounded. Plus, once the new year rolls around, you will not feel like you have to “catch up”.

Instead, incorporate some extra “to-do’s” into your regular routine. Plan holiday menus ahead of time, so that you can easily incorporate those items into your regular grocery lists. Planning ahead is one of the best ways to keep sane and stress free during the holiday season. If you know in advance all the things you will need, it makes it easier to bring in help and delegate tasks.

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