10 Ways to Combat Holiday Stress
The holidays are supposedly a happy time. After all, it’s when we take a break from daily obligations, relax and spend time with our loved ones.
But not everyone feels this way because holiday stress can get in the way of one’s well-deserved rest. Why does this happen?
Read on to understand what holiday stress is and how to combat this problem.
Is holiday stress a real thing?
The holiday season is a busy time for most people. Besides everyday stressors such as fighting traffic, caring for aging parents, and paying the bills, you worry about going shopping, cleaning, preparing meals, decorating the home, and receiving guests. These added responsibilities can affect your physical and mental health.1,2
Since women are usually in charge of holiday celebrations, they may have a harder time relaxing during the holidays.2 Also, lower-income individuals may worry about money with the exacerbated commercialism of the season.2
The holidays are the time of the year when people focus on their family and friends. Many positive emotions arise, such as love, happiness, and high spirits.2
Although positive emotions predominate, the holidays’ hustle can negatively affect your well-being. In a research, 38% of the respondents felt that their stress levels increased rather than decreased during the season.2
Holiday stress may trigger the following symptoms:2
- Difficulty sleeping
Causes of holiday stress
During the holidays, it's common to feel like the day needs more hours to get everything done. Money is also a huge concern. People worry about buying gifts, decorating the house, having a hearty meal, and affording credit card bills.2
The balance between work and personal life is more meaningful as people worry about being able to spend time with their family and making enough money to fulfill their holiday wishes.2
Another common cause of holiday stress is the unnecessary pressure some people put on themselves to throw the perfect party, wrap the gits to perfection, have the house spotlessly clean and decorated, or lose weight to fit perfectly in the clothes.3
Unfortunately, not everyone has a 100% healthy relationship with their family members, which can generate tension at family gatherings.3 One survey found out the top five reasons people argue with their family between Thanksgiving and New Year, which were: how much money to spend on other people (20%), how much money to spend on parents (20%), what presents to buy (18%), which family members to visit (16%), and where to go on Christmas day (16%).3
Finally, people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may experience symptoms of low mood, irritability, fatigue, and trouble sleeping only during winter, when it’s the holiday season.4
Tips for managing stress during the holidays
The holiday season is not easy for everyone; it’s ok to feel overwhelmed. Here are some tips to help you cope with holiday stress:1
- Recognize your feelings
Feeling stress, sadness, or grief is normal. Don't force yourself to feel happy just because it's the holiday season and it's what people expect of you.
- Find support
If you feel lonely or isolated, find religious groups, communities, or social events in your community that can offer support and companionship. You may also reach out to a friend or family member and talk about your concerns.
- Set realistic expectations
The holidays don’t have to be perfect; it’s okay if something doesn't go as planned. However, if you set more realistic goals, you are more likely to achieve them, making you feel good about yourself. For example, instead of decorating the Whole house with colored lights, why not just decorate the Christmas tree?
- Stick to your budget
Money is one of the leading holiday stressors. So, before buying gifts and food, decide how much money you can spend and stick to your budget.
- Have a plan
Good planning can help you avoid unnecessary stress. For example, make a shopping list and search for the best days to buy the items you need, what promotions are available, in which stores, and if you can buy them online. This helps you avoid last-minute purchases, which can be pretty stressful.
- Set the differences aside
Accept your family and friends as they are. Be understanding as changes are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress as much as you do.
- Have a healthy lifestyle
It's not because it's a holiday that you should stop taking care of yourself. Keep eating healthy and exercising regularly. If possible, practice stress reduction techniques like meditation or deep breathing.
- Find time for yourself
Find a hobby or activity that you enjoy. This can help you relax and refresh your mind.
- Say no when needed
You don't have to do things you don't feel comfortable with or don't feel like doing to please your loved ones. Learn when to say no.
- Seek professional help
If nothing helps relieve your stress, it might be a good idea to seek professional help. Talk to a doctor or mental health professional.
Holidays are not a happy time for everyone; some people are more stressed by having so much to do in a short period of time, not to mention the expenses.
But it is possible to combat holiday stress with simple measures. Keep healthy habits, stay close to your loved ones, seek help when needed, and get rid of pressure; remember: everything needs to be perfect.
- Stress Management. Mayo Clinic. Available: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544. Access: 11/25/2022.
- Holiday Stress. Greenberg Quilan Rosner Research. Available: https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2006/12/holiday-stress.pdf. Access: 11/25/2022.
- Jingle bell crock: 88% of Americans feel the holiday season is the most stressful time of year. Study finds. Available: https://studyfinds.org/jingle-bell-crock-88-of-americans-feel-the-holiday-season-is-most-stressful-time-of-year/#:~:text=In%20all%2C%2077%25%20of%20respondents,and%20worn%20down%20than%20ever. Access: 11/25/2022.
- Overview - Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). NHS. Available: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/overview/. Access: 11/25/2022.