According to the American Institute of Stress, more than 110 million Americans take medication for stress-related causes each week. And when the holidays come along, people already predisposed to stress can find themselves feeling blue and more anxious than usual. Even those who don’t ordinarily feel stressed under the pressure of events or deadlines, still find that the holiday season can play havoc on day-to-day routines.
So what can we do?
“Plan for stress,” say the experts – just like you plan ahead for any calamity you want to avoid. The more prepared you are for the upcoming schedule, the more relaxed you’ll feel going into it.
During the holiday season, I always think of the film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It seems to capture the “heaviness” that can come around this time of year, with a gentle reminder to really appreciate the smaller things in our lives. It requires a mindset shift – a change in our perspective.
The good news is – you don’t have to let stress ruin your holidays. You can begin this shift in perspective by pinpointing what you’re anxious about.
- Are you feeling stressed because you’re not able to fulfill your family’s gift requests?
- Are you and your partner wrangling over holiday expenses?
- Are you overloaded with too many invitations and don’t know how to say no?
- Are you feeling left out because your friends are enjoying the season and you’re not?
Start by considering your attitude. There’s no magic bullet, but your attitude can make a difference.
Ask yourself, “Is my situation a small, medium or large problem? How upset do I want to get over it, and for how long?”
Look at the possibilities around you, not the restrictions.
Learn to recognize common holiday triggers, so you can disarm them before they lead to a meltdown.
- Relationships – Relationships can cause turmoil, conflict or stress at any time, but tensions are often heightened during the holidays. Family misunderstandings and conflicts can intensify, especially if you’re thrust together for several days. On the other hand, facing the holidays without a loved one can be tough and leave you feeling lonely and sad.
- Finances – With the added expenses of gifts, travel, food, and entertainment – the holidays can put a strain on your budget and your peace of mind. Not to mention that overspending now, can mean financial worries for months to come.
- Physical demands – Even die-hard holiday enthusiasts may find that the extra shopping and socializing can leave them wiped out. Being exhausted increases your stress, creating a vicious cycle. Exercise and sleep – good antidotes for stress and fatigue – may take a back seat to chores and errands. And to top it off, burning the candle at both ends makes you more susceptible to colds and other types of health issues, both physical and mental.
The key is – don’t forget to take care of yourself during all the busyness!
Take a few minutes for meditation or journaling – or perhaps an hour for a morning run or walk – or a good stretch during yoga – even a bubble bath.
As an avid journal writer, I find that dumping my anxieties out in my personal journal helps clear the space for me to step back and take a look at the bigger picture. This one simple act helps me turn overwhelm on its head and look at it from a different viewpoint.
Here are a few journaling prompts that can support you during a hectic holiday season.
- What brings me peace?
- How (and/or what) do I want to celebrate this holiday season?
- As this year closes, I choose to let go of –
- This holiday season, I need —
- My stress triggers are –
Journal writing is an excellent way to ease holiday stress – and to minimize or make sense of any pain or loneliness that may surface during this time of year.
This holiday season, give yourself permission to take care of you!