As the old song goes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year… If that’s true, then why are we all so stressed during the holiday season?
In 2015, a “holiday stress” poll from the American Psychological Association revealed that more than eight of every 10 Americans anticipate stress during the holiday season. The good news? If we can predict stress, we can also take steps to manage it. Here are a few strategies that just may lead to less stressing and more blessing this holiday season.
Budget—For many of us, the financial pressures of gift giving and entertaining can cause extreme stress. It is estimated that American families spend an average of $850 on Christmas gifts! It is not a competition about who can buy more gifts or spend more money. It is about giving of yourself for the joy of others and that can cost only your time and talents. The best memories can be made at little or no cost.
Let Go of Perfection—We often try to recreate a perfect holiday or rectify a miserable one for our loved ones. Joy is not about a stunningly decorated table, gloriously wrapped gifts or a meal cooked to perfection. Joy comes from the personal connections that make this time of year so eagerly anticipated. Give your loved ones the gift of being fully present rather than striving for the unachievable goal of perfection.
Expectations—Holidays can bring some unwelcome guests, stress and depression, due to holding on to unrealistic expectations. Try not to let commercialism overshadow the true meaning of the season. Let go of old traditions, activities or chores that may no longer serve you. Know what you value most and don’t let anyone tell you how you should think, feel or act through the holidays.
Simplify—Downsize, slow down and truly experience your treasured holiday moments. Determine what makes the holidays special for your family then start new, simpler traditions. Find joy in the ordinary moments spent together.
Self-care—The stress of the holidays can have a detrimental effect on your health, but you can choose to change your thoughts or behaviors to create more peace and less chaos. Pay attention to your basic needs such as rest, quality food, hydration, exercise, laughter and most of all…breathe! If you are experiencing grief or depression at the holidays, take extra care to be kind to yourself and share your feelings with someone you trust.
Excesses— Do you feel pushed to do it all, be it all and buy it all? Tis the season for over-eating, over-drinking, over-booking and over-spending! Ask yourself, “am I doing this out of obligation, habit or because it brings me joy? Learn to graciously say “no thank you” when necessary and without guilt. Indulge in your favorites, but enjoy everything in moderation.
Develop Your Plan—We know months in advance that our stress levels may soar in November and December so now is the time to make your plan. What will you let go of or add to your holiday plan that will bring you and your family more love and joy? When you plan ahead, you can manage your stress and this truly can be the most wonderful time of the year.
~Dr. Linda Peterson, PhD, MHC, Life Purpose Health and Wellness Coach