What is holiday stress?
The holiday season is a time of joy and celebration. Dare I say, for many, it’s the most wonderful time of the year? A time to decorate, spread some cheer, and be jolly. But for many people, it’s also a time of increased pressure, high demands, financial worries, family conflict, and attempts to make the season perfect.
Stress is your body’s way of responding to a threat. When you’re stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. This hormone stimulates your body’s fight-or-flight response, which makes you feel more alert and ready to deal with a dangerous situation.
In the short term, this response can be helpful. But when you’re constantly in “fight-or-flight”, it can take a toll on your physical and mental health. According to the American Psychological Association, it can lead to problems like anxiety, depression, and sleep problems.
There are a number of ways to manage this. Identifying your holiday triggers is a good first step. Once you know what’s causing your stress, you can start to make changes to reduce its impact. For example, if money is a source of your worries, try creating a budget for your spending or get creative and try something homemade. If family conflict is an issue, try to set aside some time for calm conversation or avoid stressful situations altogether. There are ways to navigate this season to find peace and joy and focus on what’s really important without added pressure.
There are also many supplements you can look into to help fight the blues, improve resilience, and boost your mood. These Ashwaganda gummies are my favorite! Or these, which help promote healthy cortisol hormone balance and supports your ability to respond to stressful situations more calmly.
Take a few deep breaths and read on for some of my favorite tips to de-stress during this season.
Don’t lose sight of what really counts
First and foremost, don’t let the long lines and hustle and bustle make you lose sight of what really counts. This time of year is all about spending time with those you love and enjoying the simple things in life. So, take a step back, relax, refocus, and savor the season. Schedule a video chat, go for a walk, or just plan a day trip to spend some quality time with a loved one. Dreading going out shopping? Maybe make it a date to make sure you have some laughs and good company or opt for some online shopping. Choose activities that you truly enjoy and focus on quality over quantity. Find a place to volunteer or a local coat drive to help you give to those less fortunate.
Take some time for yourself — and don’t be afraid to say no
It can be easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life (and expectations) and forget to take some time for yourself. But it’s important to make sure you DO actually schedule in some ‘me time’ into your weeks. We all need some time to relax and recharge our batteries. Make sure you take time to do the things you enjoy to decompress and avoid burnout. Whether it’s a few hours on the weekend or a nightly wind-down routine, taking regular breaks will help you stay refreshed and focused when you need to be productive. It can be a relaxing bath, going for a walk, or taking a proper vacation. Find what works for you! There’s no right or wrong answer.
I enjoy reading, so I always make sure to set aside some time each day to read a book for pleasure. This helps me relax and escape when I feel I need it. It’s important to find ways to unwind that work for you, so that you can recharge and be your best self.
It can also be helpful to talk to a friend or family member about how you’re feeling and why you might need some time to yourself. And don’t be afraid to say no if you’re feeling overwhelmed – it’s better to take a step back and refresh than try to do too much and end up feeling even more stressed. It’s okay to politely decline and NOT attend every party or meet every demand. Don’t let overcommitting lead to a meltdown.
Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s necessary. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of anyone else. Make sure to schedule some time for yourself every day, even if it’s just a few minutes. During this time, do something that makes you happy and relaxes you. This could be reading, taking a bath, going for a walk, or listening to music. Taking care of yourself will help you feel calmer and more capable of dealing with whatever life throws your way. Seek out opportunities for some rest and relaxation.
Remember, self care isn’t selfish. 🙂
Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment and paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings without judgment. To be mindful, you need to take time to meditate, be aware of your thoughts and feelings, and focus on your senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch). This is a super effective tool to fight stress and anxiety during the busy holiday season. There are also plenty of books and videos you can check out to really help with this topic.
Keep up healthy habits (and beware of seasonal sweets!)
Holidays are notorious for ruining healthy habits, making it easy to fall off track. There are more parties and gatherings to attend, and tempting sweet treats everywhere you turn. From candy canes to gingerbread cookies, these seasonal treats can be hard to resist. But it’s important to stay on track with healthy eating and exercise, or you may end up feeling sluggish and bloated come January. So make an effort to keep up your healthy habits, and you’ll be able to enjoy this time of year without any guilt. Look for some healthier alternatives or variations to some of your favorite recipes or get creative and make up some of your own (yes, I promise.. They DO exist!).
Make a holiday budget
Making a budget can help reduce stress during the holidays. By setting a budget, you can better keep track of your spending and avoid going into debt. This will help you enjoy more and worry less about money. Also, making a shopping list throughout the year can be helpful when figuring out what gifts to get, especially for those hard to find items or those difficult to shop for.
One way to combat stress is to get outside and enjoy fresh air. (Bundle up if you live in a colder climate, of course!) Cortisol, the stress hormone, can build up during periods of stress. Getting outside and boosting exposure to nature has been shown to reduce these levels and improve your overall mood. Try walking with a co-worker on your lunch break. So take a break from all the chaos and enjoy some time in nature. Your mind and body will thank you for it.
Simplify, set realistic expectations and roll with the punches
Things may not always go according to plan, but try not to put pressure on yourself to make everything perfect. One way to make the most of it is to set realistic expectations and roll with the punches if they don’t go as planned. Try to simplify when possible and don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Of course it can be stressful, but try instead to focus on the positive and enjoy the time you have with your loved ones.
Have to cook for a house full of people? I highly recommend planning ahead, and maybe creating a spreadsheet where everyone can volunteer to bring something. A little planning goes a long way. I am a HUGE fan of checklists and to-do lists.
Maybe you need a little help in the time management department. Try meal prepping or simple crock pot recipes to stay on track with healthy eating to avoid skipping meals or overindulging.
Which leads me to my next point…
Let go of holiday perfectionism
The holiday season is a time for family, friends, and loved ones. It’s also a time when we can put unrealistic pressure on ourselves to make everything “perfect.” If you find yourself getting stressed out about creating the perfect holiday experience, it’s important to take a step back and remember what the holidays are really all about. Instead of trying to create an idealized version of the holidays, focus on enjoying the time with your loved ones and making meaningful memories.
Move more, feel better
Moving more doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. There are plenty of ways to sneak in a little extra movement throughout the day, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Here are a few tips. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, even if it’s just one floor. Park your car a little further away when you’re out shopping for presents. If you’re watching TV, get up and move around during commercials. Take advantage of opportunities for walks or hikes with family after dinner. Whenever possible, walk or bike instead of driving. Do some simple stretches or exercises while you’re on the phone. Peloton, Kira Stokes, and Youtube are some of my favorite platforms to find short videos to help move the body. Yoga is a great, low impact, low stress way to get the blood flowing.
(See also my article on top yoga poses for stress reduction)
Get plenty of sleep and stay healthy
It is important to get plenty of sleep and stay healthy. This helps the body to function properly and prevents illness. When we are well-rested, we are able to think more clearly and make better decisions. Additionally, getting enough sleep can help improve our mood and reduce stress levels. I LOVE the Peloton meditations! (I swear they put me RIGHT to sleep!)
The holiday season is a time when many people feel stressed and anxiety can reach an all time high. This can be due to a number of factors. I have listed some practical tips that you can use to help cope with these stresses. I hope you can incorporate some of these tips so you can focus more on what’s truly important.
If you do find yourself feeling overwhelmed or depressed during the holidays, there are a number of additional resources that you can turn to for help. The American Psychological Association and the Mayo Clinic both have a wealth of information on how to deal with holiday stress and depression. There are also a number of hotlines that you can call if you need someone to talk to.
You’re not alone in these feelings during the holidays. By following these tips, you can make this holiday season a little bit easier on yourself.
Just remember, there are ways to find joy during the holidays. I’d love to hear from you on some other things you have done and found helpful!