The holiday season brings get-togethers and festivities, and it can also bring strong emotions and stressful situations. The demands of party preparations, trips, visitors and holiday shopping can cause more stress than usual. What can we do to minimize stress and have a peaceful time with friends and family?
Awareness is key. It’s good to be conscious that these days can be challenging for our physical and mental health. An increase in interaction with others can also mean an increase in stress. The good news is we can counter that stress with relaxing activities that help us put the holidays in a healthy perspective.
Here are some tips to stay healthy and reduce stress during the holiday season:
- Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
- 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 grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. Be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress, too.
- 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. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Try these alternatives: Donate to a charity in someone’s name, give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.
- Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. Remember to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
- Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and family members will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity.
- Stick with healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets and drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.
- Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.