The holiday season is upon us! While this time of year is filled with joy and cheer, it also brings financial concerns, unrealistic expectations and competing demands.
The pressure to navigate it all with ease while balancing the responsibilities of daily life is a common challenge and results in increased levels of stress and anxiety.
It’s not surprising the American Psychological Association (APA) found that eight out of ten Americans anticipate holiday stress, according to a 2008 poll.
With three quarters of Americans already reporting that they experience moderate to extreme levels of stress, the added financial burden and emotional strain brought on by the holidays makes it even more challenging to mentally stay afloat (APA, 2009).
Though it’s impossible to eliminate stress completely, we’ve built this survival guide to help you manage your stress and restore your holiday spirit. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, after all!
Acknowledge Your Emotions
Take a moment to recognize when you are experiencing signs of oncoming stress. This way you can deal with stress symptoms effectively before they become overpowering.
Dismissing or explaining away your stress will only serve to amplify it. Make an effort to accept it without placing judgment on yourself—it's okay feel things other than happiness.
Setting the bar unrealistically high will inevitably lead to stress, so establish manageable expectations early on and be flexible. Your holiday meal, gifts, decorations and so on do not have to be perfect.
Remind yourself that your holiday will not always go according to plan—things are bound to change along the way. With a flexible mindset you’ll be more likely to enjoy your time celebrating with family and friends.
Make yourself a list and check it twice!
Create a master to-do list of all of the tasks you need to get done and prioritize by ranking each item in order of immediacy. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment as you check items off and your to-do list becomes shorter.
Keep your list in a place that’s easily accessible, like your wallet, or store it in your phone. Relying solely on your memory to keep track is unreliable and burdensome, especially when your stress levels are already higher than baseline.
Create a Schedule
Make yourself a schedule to help you balance your to-do list and your holiday social gatherings so that you can plan when you’ll have time to get things done.
When building your schedule, keep in mind that it’s okay to say no. Be willing to decline attending some events so that you can prevent yourself from feeling exhausted and frenzied.
Don’t forget to take time out for yourself too—plan to do things that are relaxing and fun. By integrating self-care into your schedule, you’ll feel more energized and better able to tackle your to-do list.
Prepare a budget and stick to it!
According to a survey conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, financial concerns are the leading source of stress for Americans during the holidays.
Staying within your budget will prevent you from spending beyond your means, incurring debt and worrying about how you will recover from your seasonal expenditure after all is said and done.
Maintain Healthy Habits
Overindulgence is a typical holiday occurrence but can fuel stress and anxiety. Try to maintain a balance and don’t abandon your healthy habits.
Both exercise and sleep have proven benefits related to mood. Be active and make an effort to adhere to a regular sleep routine so that your holiday cheer remains intact.
For those who experience sleep disturbance, it's especially important to limit your caffeine and alcohol intake. This will increase your chances of having a restful night’s sleep.
Reach Out For Help
It’s okay to ask for help. If you have too much on your plate, distribute some of the workload to family and friends—it's not up to you to do everything. Let the people you're close with know you’re feeling stressed and lean on them for support.
If your distress persists to the extent that is has a significant impact on your functioning—whether this be psychological, occupational, interpersonal or even physical—contact your doctor and voice your concerns or seek help from a mental health professional.