BY: Stacia Casillo, Psy.D
Many people find the winter holiday season is a particularly stressful time. Factors that contribute to increased feelings of stress include numerous social obligations, the over commercialization of the holidays, financial stress, poor diet, and limited physical activity.
Here are some helpful tips to alleviate some of your stress and help you and your family enjoy the holiday season!
Have a Realistic Expectation of the Holiday
Having unrealistic expectations of the holiday is a source of significant holiday stress and anxiety for people. Whether striving towards the “picture perfect” holiday or feeling inundated with obligations, it is easy to get caught up in the holiday madness. Take a step back and ask yourself, “What is most important to me about the holiday?” “What makes me the happiest during the holiday season?” Whether your answer is spending Christmas Day with your children, making your family’s traditional holiday dinner, or engaging in charitable work, you create a more balanced perception of what you truly value during the holiday season. These are the event and tasks you should focus your time and energy on.
Organizing and Budgeting
Once you have more realistic expectations of the holiday season, you can begin to prioritize your holiday tasks. It is easy to feel overwhelmed with the numerous social obligations and responsibilities associated with the holidays. Creating a To-Do List is the easiest way to get organized. Avoid having multiple pieces of paper around your house and office with information and tasks; everything you need to do or follow up on goes on your list! Secondly, create a schedule of all your appointments and social obligations, and then budget time for holiday preparation activities (e.g. shopping, cooking, and decorating). Be realistic about what you accomplish in any given time period. And, remember to include pleasure activities for you and your family; you should enjoy the holiday season, not stress about it! Finally, create a budget for holiday expenses. You do not want to start the New Year in debt!
Burdening ourselves with unnecessary responsibilities leads to increased feelings of stress and frustration. Therefore, it is very important to set some limits for yourself. Depending on your situation, this may mean turning down a couple of social invitations, setting gift budgets with friends and family, or deciding not to send a holiday card to everyone you know since kindergarten! In therapy, I frequently work with individuals to
help them learn that setting limits, boundaries, or saying “no” is not going to lead to the end of the world. Ask yourself, “What am I afraid will happen if I XYZ?” Then ask yourself, “Realistically, what is more than likely going to happen if I XYZ.” Hopefully, you will realize that no catastrophic event will occur and this will alleviate feelings of stress. It can also be a real confidence booster if it is something you are not usually comfortable doing.
Finally, it is very important to take care of yourself during the holiday season. Lack of sleep, exercise, and a poor diet can contribute to negative emotions and increased feelings of stress. Making these activities a priority will help you to avoid falling into that trap during the holidays. Use your schedule to incorporate time to exercise throughout the week. Don’t go to holiday parties hungry; you will make better food choices, if you are not famished and desperate for food! If you are going to have a couple of holiday cocktails, remember to drink a glass of water in between each, so you stay hydrated. Don’t deprive yourself of some indulgences during the holidays; just remember that moderation is key.