Do you dread the holiday season because of the amount of stress it causes? Studies show that the holidays increase stress levels for many people, especially when it comes to demands on their time and financial difficulties.
You can’t avoid the holidays, but you can take some simple stress-relief steps to minimize stress and make it to January without sacrificing your mental well-being. Here’s how:
1. Forget perfection
Whether it’s your holiday party, your big family meal, or your Christmas tree, it doesn’t have to be perfect and Pinterest-ready. Perfection can quickly kill your holiday spirit and trigger anxiety. Be okay with something being “good enough.”
2. Quit comparing
Do you find yourself coveting someone else’s holiday splendor on social media? Turn away from the screen. Comparing yourself or your holidays to someone else’s edited, airbrushed version will only make you feel inferior. Consider taking a social media or technology break to lower your overall stress.
3. Give memories instead of gifts
Don’t know what to get your friend who has everything? Plan a special day together, such as seeing a movie, getting dinner at a favorite restaurant, or going shopping. Purchase a small, coordinating gift card that he or she can use for the occasion.
4. Modify — or get rid of — old traditions
If you find that the annual big cookie bake is more taxing than tasty, maybe it’s time to rethink old customs. Just because it’s tradition doesn’t mean you are obligated to do it indefinitely — especially if no one enjoys it anymore. Research other options to replace it, and create a new tradition. For instance, build a gingerbread house or play a game together. Buy the cookies from a local bakery instead.
5. Don’t worry about pleasing everyone
This is a good tip at any time of year, but it’s especially helpful around the holidays. If you find yourself pulling your hair out because Aunt Margo doesn’t like mashed potatoes and Grandpa wants to eat three hours earlier than everyone else, it’s time to pause. You simply can’t please everyone, all the time. Set healthy limits with family and friends and work on saying “no” when someone is taking advantage of you.
6. Keep your fun activities on the calendar
The holidays are no time to stop going to yoga class or skip your coffee date with a friend. In fact, this may be the time when you need these things the most! Don’t let holiday craziness overtake your life and sacrifice your “me time.” Keep these things on your calendar and make the holiday chore wait. You’ll likely find that all the important stuff still gets done and you feel a lot more refreshed.
7. Rethink expensive gifts
If finances have you stressed out this year, don’t put yourself into debt because you feel you have to buy extravagant gifts for others. Many people mistakenly believe that they “have” to buy things for every co-worker, neighbor, and friend, when in reality, you end up buying something the person doesn’t even want. Consider giving cards instead of presents to co-workers and friends. Or give the gift of your time or talent to a charity that means something to you.
8. Go to the mall armed with a plan
Wandering the mall looking for that perfect gift is frustrating and likely a colossal waste of your time. Try to come up with gift ideas before you venture out, or at least plan which store you’ll visit for each person on your list. For instance, a kitchen supply store may be ideal for the culinary enthusiast on your list, while a clothing store might be in order for your scarf-loving mother-in-law. Go online and print out a map of the mall or use an app if one is available. Then, make a plan to hit the stores on your list without retracing your steps if you can.
9. Say “yes” when people ask if you need help
Let go of some control and allow others to help. Your sister can check if the turkey is done, your kids can help set the table, and your dad can serve drinks or run to the store for a last-minute forgotten item. When guests ask if they can bring a dish, gratefully accept and discuss some ideas that work for them and fit into your plans.
10. Stick with what you know
You don’t have to outdo yourself each year with a fancy new recipe or some extravagant addition to the festivities. If you make ham and sweet potatoes every year, stick with it. Doing something you’re good at is much less stressful than trying something unfamiliar when you’re already swamped.
11. Go easy on the sugar
Don’t use the holidays as a reason to go overboard on high-sugar goodies. While you can certainly allow yourself a favorite holiday treat, be sure to keep the sweets in check. If you constantly snack on cookies and grandma’s homemade chocolates, you’ll start to feel run down and will experience blood sugar crashes that can lead to more stress. If you’re inundated with treats from friends and neighbors, put them in the freezer and bring them out when you have a large gathering of people who can enjoy them.
Switch up your holiday routine with these cookie recipes that won’t derail your diet.
12. When you’re about to lose it, go outside and walk
When you’re exhausted and stress levels run high, it’s easy to slip into an emotional response. You might snap at a relative, yell at your spouse, or say something you’ll regret later. When you feel yourself reaching that point, give yourself permission to walk away. Excuse yourself and go for a brisk walk for 10 minutes — or longer, if you can. Exercise helps improve your mood and relieve stress, and the fresh air will give you a chance to find calm again.
The holidays can be chaotic, but you can get through them with some attention to your own well-being. Don’t let plans, parties, and obligations cancel out the need to take care of yourself.Are you ready to put yourself first and get healthier? Garcia Weight Loss and Wellness Centers offers customized plans to help you start feeling and looking your best. Contact us for your no-cost consultation!
Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on December 18, 2018