While the holidays are one of the most joyous times of the year, they can also be one of the most stressful. We look forward to spending time with our families, celebrating and reflecting on the end of another year, but all of the activity and social interactions can lead to an increase in stress. Stress is a natural consequence of having too much to do but finding ways to manage holiday stress will bring greater enjoyment of the season to you and your loved ones. The following tips and ideas can help you de-stress this holiday season.
Accept the fact that perfection is rarely achieved, even with our most valiant efforts. We all want to cook like a professional and have the most gorgeous decorations on the block that would make even the HGTV pros proud, but perfectionism can create a lot of chaos and undue stress. It’s okay not to win the ‘best house lights’ on the street, or the gingerbread bake-off this year. It’s better to limit stress of trying to be perfect by taking on a ‘less-is-more’ attitude.
Understand time is limited. Make choices about what is most important to you and put your energy there. Accept help from others, especially when it comes to things that are on your “nice-but-not-mandatory” list. Even better, delegate those tasks to someone else who might be looking to play a larger role in the festivities. It’s an opportunity to make shared memories and to assist others in starting new traditions. People often forget the presents that they received, but they rarely forget the memories that were made. Allow others to have the opportunity to make memories within your family and friends.
Learn to say no. Saying no can be difficult but knowing what’s important to you will help. If someone offers an opportunity or project that isn’t on your priority list, gracefully decline, explaining that while you would love to help, your calendar is just too full. It’s better for us emotionally to do two or three things well than to attempt ten things half-heartedly.
Plan and organize. Making lists and writing things down on a family calendar helps you to see clearly what is happening during the holidays. Encourage other family members to use the calendar, too. It will help you avoid those last-minute, I-forgot-to-tell-you-I-need-a-dozen-cookies-for-school-tomorrow crises.
Take time for yourself. The holidays only come once a year, but your health should be a year-round focus. Yes, there’s a lot to do and think about now, but your mind and body still need 30 minutes of exercise a day; seven to eight hours of sleep a night; a diet low in sweets and fat and high in fiber and protein; and take a few minutes a day to think about all the things you’re grateful for in the past and what you’re looking forward to in the coming year. Playing your favorite holiday music or watching those classic movies that we all love can also help us destress and enjoy our ‘me time.’
Let it go. It is the rare person indeed whose family life is picture-perfect. We all have a family member who just has a way of getting under our skin. When it comes to relatives, the best recommendation is just to let it go. At most, you’ll likely spend a day or two in their company and often much less. Laugh about it. Talk to your spouse or friends about it. But don’t let their poor behavior ruin your holidays!
When to Seek Help
If your stress or anxiety are lingering, you should take steps to get treatment. Stress can show itself both physically and mentally. If you feel persistently sad, anxious, or on edge; you start having unexplained physical problems; you’re unable to sleep; feel irritable all the time; or just feel overwhelmed, it may be time to seek help.
New Vista provides mental health, substance use and intellectual and developmental disability services to nearly 25,000 adults, children and families in 17 Central Kentucky counties. Their mission is to help the most vulnerable populations live their best life and achieve their fullest potential. If you or a loved one needs help this holiday season, call our 24-Hour Helpline 1.800.928.8000.