The holidays present a crazy array of demands — parties, shopping, baking, cleaning, entertaining, trying to get things wrapped up at work before you go on a break, or if you’re working through just keeping track of the days at this dizzying time of year can be a challenge. It’s no wonder the festive season often brings with it extra stress, anxiety and sometimes depression.
Here are some practical tips to manage your stress levels at this time of year.
1. Acknowledge your feelings.
It is perfectly okay if you are not filled with Christmas joy! Some people live for this festive time of year, but others seriously dread it.
Maybe you don’t have positive Christmas memories from your childhood. Maybe someone close to you passed away recently or around this time of year. Maybe you just can’t be with your loved ones this year. It’s ok to feel sadness, or grief and it’s ok to cry or express your feelings.
You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season. Acknowledge it, accept it, and remember this tried and true saying that… ‘this too, shall pass’.
2. Reach out.
If you feel lonely or isolated at this time of year then reach out to your friends, extended family or to the community you live in through religious or social events. They can all offer you support and companionship.
Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships. Doing something for others who are less fortunate is also a great way to put things in perspective.
3. Have realistic expectations.
Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect, or be just like it was last year.
Families change and grow, and traditions and rituals often change too. Choose a few of your favourite traditions to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones.
For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, either go to them or find new ways to celebrate together, such as skype, FaceTime or simply sharing pictures, emails or videos.
4. Set aside differences.
Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside your issues until a more appropriate time, and try and be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry.
Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
5. Stick to a budget.
Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. No one needs the stresses that come with overspending after Christmas.
Try these alternatives; donate to a charity in someone’s name, give homemade gifts, make shortbread shapes or homemade jam, start a family gift exchange or organise a secret santa.
6. Plan ahead.
Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities.
Plan your menus and make your shopping list well in advance in order to prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients or having to deal with the Christmas parking rush or over-packed shopping experiences!
7. Learn to say no.
Feeling pressured to say yes to something, when you know you should say no, might end up making you feel resentful and overwhelmed.
We all lead busy lives with pressures from a lot of different angles and rest assured your friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t be part of every social engagement or activity.
8. Don’t abandon healthy habits.
Don’t use the excuse of the festive season allow it to also become a free-for-all. Overindulgence will only add to your stress and guilt after the festive season.
Try these suggestions:
- Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks
- Get plenty of sleep
- Incorporate regular physical activity into each day
- Don’t indulge in too much alcohol – no one feels good with a hangover!
9. Take a breather.
Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes on your own without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do or deal with at this time of year.
Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
Some options may include; taking a walk at night and stargazing, listening to soothing music, getting a massage, having a bath or reading a book.
In your breaks at work sit outside in the sunshine for 5-10 minutes or go for a walk to clear your head.
10. Have a ‘Great Escape’ Plan!
It’s a good idea to have some pre-planned excuses to escape from proceedings if they get too stressful.
Be imaginative and use things such as leaving the room to make a phone-call to a friend or perhaps checking on a neighbour. Just by having planned a couple of escape routes you’ll probably feel less stressed anyway but actually leaving the situation, even for 10 minutes, will help clear your mind and relax you.
Don’t let the Christmas lunch table get you down.
11. Fore-armed is fore-warned.
If you already know the things that cause you stress at this time of year, then next year start thinking about clever solutions a bit earlier!
Do you find gift shopping stressful? Make a list of the people you need to buy for and set yourself a budget for each. Work out how much you need to set aside each week and set up a direct debit into a separate account each pay check to cover what you will need for the year.
As great gift ideas come to you through the year jot them down in your phone, in your daily diary or just a notebook. Often friends and family will mention things they want, need or are interested in throughout the year. Make note of it and save yourself the stress later. Often it’s something cheaper, but it shows you have been listening – and that will mean a lot more to the recipient.
If you’re looking for something specific, then call the stores you would normally visit to make sure they have what you want. Save yourself the stress of trudging from shop to shop searching! And don’t forget that a lot of the bigger stores will price match or at least be negotiable. It’s worth a try.
TIP: Shopping online is a perfect solution to avoiding the madness of festive season shopping. You can find exactly what you need and have it delivered right to you without having to leave the comfort of your lounge. Perfect!
12. Seek professional help if you need it.
Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores.
If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
Don’t let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. Learn to recognize your triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.