8 Ways to Reduce Stress This Holiday Season
The holidays are depicted as a time of happiness and celebration, during which families come together to enjoy one another’s company, and bask in the joy of another year completed, while looking forward to the new year ahead. But for some, the holidays are nothing but a source of stress and anxiety, anger and depression.
Holiday Stress — It’s More Common Than You Think
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the holidays are a grim time for only those who have maybe lost family members or those who are alone for the season. The Christmas period can be incredibly stressful for even the most average of persons.
Think about it. There are meals to plan, presents to buy, activities to attend, finances to juggle as you pay for all of it, family and friend expectations to meet. You have to see and deal with people you might not see all that much the rest of the year. Even if you love the holidays, it can all be a bit much.
In fact, there are studies that have shown the holidays result in a range of stress-related health issues. The American Heart Association actually calls this “the Merry Christmas Coronary” and the “New Year Heart Attack” phenomena. Additionally, the winter months in general come with their fair share of issues, such as negative effects on our moods, due to reduced daylight. Plus, consider all that holiday food. Candy, fatty roasts and Christmas cookies are certainly not the stress- and anxiety-blasting foods that your diet needs during this time period.
So while the holiday season can certainly be a joyful time, it can also be a big problem.
What’s the Secret to a Stress-Free Holiday Season?
But we have a few secrets to help you make this holiday season just a little less stressful and a lot more enjoyable.
First, recognize that the holiday season is not all perfect. Despite the twinkling lights and festive snow, the carols and the presents, the holiday season is a source of stress for just about everyone (whether or not they want to admit it).
Secondly, change your mindset and resolve to do something differently this Christmas season — for both your own and others’ benefit.
That’s it. With these two steps, you can have a more stress-free holiday.
Still not sure? Here are five crucial insights that’ll help you change your mindset. Repeat these mantras to yourself as you go along with your planning and present-buying.
Everything does not need to be perfect.
Everything does not need to get done.
It’s okay to say “no” to those who are placing extra demands on you.
It’s okay to relax and take time to recharge.
Checking things off your to-do list is not the reason for the season.
These five reminders will help you better keep your focus on truly enjoying the holidays, versus making them “perfect.” Write them down. Put them where you can see them. Type them into your phone. Tape them to your mirror. But don’t forget them.
However, after you’ve acknowledged that the holidays aren’t all perfect and you’ve decided to do something about it, to make changes in your own life and the lives of your family, what exactly do you do? What changes are actually helpful, beyond simply changing your mindset.
We have eight suggestions.
1. Get your best rest.
Yes, yes — it’s easier said than done. But a good night’s sleep is so vital for your health, state of mind and overall mood. So, stop staying up late to wrap those extra Christmas presents and don’t worry about baking those cookies for your child’s holiday party at school (trust us — they’ll be fine if you simply pick some up at the store ahead of class). Get your full eight hours of rest. Your body and your friends and family will thank you for it.
2. Pick your tunes with care.
Did you know that listening to too much Christmas music can actually be bad for your health? According to one clinical psychologist, listening to too much Christmas music, the same songs over and over again, can really take a toll on your mental health. Additionally, listening to Christmas songs that have a negative emotional connection can negatively impact your mood further. So, pick your Christmas playlist with care this season and opt for a lot of variety and songs that you actually enjoy. And, if all else fails, turn off the holiday tunes entirely.
3. Make time for exercise.
Again, like with the sleep, it can be difficult to find time for exercise during such a busy period. However, even just taking a short walk around your neighbourhood can lift your spirits. If you find yourself growing irritated or overwhelmed with your to-do list, take a break and head outdoors for a quick, brisk walk.
4. Avoid the bubbly (at least a little bit).
The drinks flow freely at most holiday events, but indulging too much can cause more problems than it solves. Rather than trying to relieve your stress with an extra holiday cocktail or two, try to limit your consumption. You’ll thank yourself later, when you have a better night’s sleep, and when you’re not dealing with a raging headache the next day.
Alcohol not your poison of choice? If you turn to caffeine during your most stressful moments, you might want to limit your intake there as well, or else risk feeling worse than you did to begin with.
5. Try some breathing exercises or meditation.
It’s amazing just how quickly breathing exercises and meditation can help you relax. Try a simple breathing routine if you just have a few seconds — inhaling through your nose for five seconds, exhaling through your mouth for five seconds.
If you have a few minutes, though, you can try Flow’s guided meditation experiences (either online or via your favourite VR device). In as few as five minutes, you can escape from your stress and get lost in gorgeous Icelandic landscapes, as you listen to tranquil music during a unique meditation experience.
6. Practice gratitude.
It’s something that you hear all too often around the holidays, but how often do you actually take time out of your day to practice gratitude? If it’s been a while since you really thought about all the good in your life, sit down and make a list of what you’re thankful for this season. Look beyond the big stuff that you can take for granted, such as a home or a job, family and friends. Get down into the specific things that made your day a little bit better, like your spouse chipping in with some chores or your child actually eating all of their vegetables, or just the beauty of the snow on your daily walk.
7. Do something just for you.
Between volunteering for your favorite nonprofit, buying presents for everyone in the family, baking cookies for your book club and organising the family Christmas Day feast, it can be difficult to find time to do something just for you this holiday season. However, don't let your self care fall through the cracks. Set aside a little time this month for just yourself. Maybe you go out for coffee at your favorite cafe and read by the window. Maybe you go for a quick spa treatment. Maybe you plan a girls’ night where there’s no expectation for presents, cooking or any of the other chores that come with holiday hosting.
Whatever your idea of fun, plan some for yourself.
8. Plan some alone time.
Along these lines, make sure you’re planning some alone time as well, so that you have space to recharge your batteries. Maybe you send the kids to the park for the day, or you ask your partner to take them Christmas shopping. Maybe you head out on a solo hike, or you just cosy up in the den for a few hours with the door closed. However you can get it, try to get some peace and quiet, as you rest and recharge as much as possible among all of the busyness.