Managing Holiday Stress When the Season is Overwhelming

There are many things to love about the holidays: time with family and friends, gift-giving, decorations and celebrations. But there can be a downside to the holiday season that isn’t talked about as much: stress.

Travel planning, buying the perfect gifts, challenging family dynamics, cooking, cleaning, entertaining, etc. can make a person want to pull their hair out!

As much as we try to relax and enjoy the holiday festivities, stress often gets in the way and makes it much harder to be joyful. While we can’t always eliminate holiday stress, there are actions we can take to reduce the stress triggers and welcome more joy into our lives.

Here are some top tips to help keep the holidays enjoyable:

Think About Your Sources of Stress

What causes you the most holiday stress? Perhaps thinking about budgeting for gifts, seeing a growing to-do list, or the prospect of seeing certain family members gives you a knot in your stomach.

Recognizing the main sources of stress can help you pinpoint where the stress comes from most, making it easier to address.

Protect Your Health with “You” Time

When things get busy and hectic, many of us ignore our own needs to make time for the added responsibilities. But this is backwards. Don’t let your needs go completely by the wayside. Not taking care of your health only leads to further emotional disharmony, making it even harder to cope with holiday stress.

Find ways to continue caring for yourself among the chaos. Consider this your anchor, grounding you so it’s easier to handle what life throws your way. Here are some ways to be healthy even when things are crazy:

  • Fit in little bursts of exercise, such as a walk around the block or some yoga first thing in the morning.
  • Get as many vegetables into your day as you can, even if it means adding them to quick meals in the evening.
  • Get a balance of whole carbs, proteins and fats with each meal or snack — and eat a decent breakfast, more than just coffee!
  • Carry some fruit in your purse (like an apple or banana) for a snack on-the-go.
  • Consider additional wellness herbs or supplements to support mood.
  • Spend daily time without your phone, which can increase anxiety and stress. Read a book instead, write in a journal, or have a meaningful face-to-face conversation with a loved one.
  • Listen to soothing holiday music or other music you love.
  • Use essential oils. Citrus fragrances can help ease stressful feelings and boost mood. Carry them with you.
  • Try a Chinese medicine stress-relief method: Firmly pinch the fleshy area between your index finger and thumb (the hoku point) for 30 seconds. This can help reduce tension you might be holding in your upper body.
  • Find at least 15 minutes per day to spend quietly by yourself.

Mimic your regular daily routine as much as possible and make wellness a priority.

Don’t Fight the Feeling

Allow yourself to feel and accept whatever’s going on internally. Sit with the feeling and take a few minutes for some slow, deep breaths.

Sometimes we try so hard to fight against our stressful feelings that it simply causes more stress! Know that you can’t change how you feel by just willing it to be so, and that your feelings are legitimate and justified.

Say “No” More Often and Let Go of Perfectionism

It’s easy to make lots of promises and go overboard on everything during the holidays. Respect the fact that you’re human and, like everyone else, you have limits.

We want everything to go perfectly, but is perfection worth it if we’re too stressed to enjoy it? Think about the minimum amount of responsibility you can take on while still enjoying what’s most important to you and your family. And ask for help when you need it.

Remember what matters most to you when it comes to this time of year, and focus on that above all.

Practice Accepting People as They Are

If other people are your source of stress at this time of year, practice accepting them as they are flaws and all.

Just about everyone feels some form of stress during the holidays. Try approaching them with grace and set aside grievances, at least until there’s a better time to discuss them.

The Bottom Line

Stress during the holidays is tough. Recognize and accept when feelings of stress arise, do what you can to address their sources and give yourself breaks when you need them. The closer we can get to reminding ourselves of what truly matters and making that the focus of this season, the more we can relax into the positive and natural joy that comes from them!

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