The upcoming holiday season is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. But for many, the pressure to clean the house; buy or find the right gift; cook and host the festivities; navigate strained relationships with family and friends is nothing but stressful. While the holidays provide opportunities for friends and family to gather, share and recharge, people quickly find themselves struggling with all the pressures and expectations that the holidays bring. And what makes it even more stressful is that we are still 18 months into the coronavirus pandemic with a new variant that continues to threaten the lives and livelihood of many people across the world. So, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with all these different stressors, rest assured that you are not alone.
The Biggest Holiday Stressors
According to the American Institute of Stress, “while the holiday season typically drums up visions of sugarplum fairies, bright lights, gifts, and cheer, many people admit this time of year is filled with an overwhelming amount of physical and emotional discomfort.” “Recent statistics related to holiday stress reveal that nearly 69% of people are stressed by the feeling of having a “lack of time” and perceiving a “lack of money.” And over 50% are stressed about the “pressure to give or get gifts.” These statistics further indicate that “many health experts believe that exceedingly high expectations for peace, love, and joy during the holiday season can negatively impact both your physical and mental health — and much more than many people realize.”
So where does that leave many of us?
With only 11 days left before Christmas, many people are experiencing heightened amounts of stress as they try to get everything ready for the festivities. And perhaps the three biggest stressors during this season are as follows:
- Hosting Christmas Dinner/Party: Recently, I was talking to a friend about her holiday plans. She shared that she would be hosting a Christmas dinner for about 15 of her closest family and friends. As we spoke about the menu, she shared that she was doing it potluck style to avoid a repeat of her last Christmas dinner, where she was so worn out from all the preparations that she could not participate in the celebrations and had to be sent to bed to rest. Her experience is echoed by the results of an American survey which found that “Fifty-one percent of respondents said hosting a party or dinner during the holiday was the most stressful part of the holiday season.”
- Increased Holiday Spending: Another big source of stress during the holiday season comes from increased spending and expenses that come with gift giving, travelling and other festivities. A survey of “2,000 Americans conducted by Yelp with OnePoll discovered that 28% of respondents said they’ve gone into debt during the holiday season.” The pressure to give gifts or to make loved ones happy, force many people to overspend or ignore their budget which in turn creates debt that results in other forms of stress. And for many people, “That debt has an average life-span of three months, which leaves family and friends chipping away at bills and credit card payments all the way through March.”
- Strained Family Relationships: As families and friends come together for the holidays to spend time with each other, personalities and personal preferences and unresolved conflict can easily spoil the atmosphere and prevent everyone from having a good time. Navigating these tense relationships during the holiday gatherings can trigger anxious feelings and thoughts for those who have complicated relationships with their loved ones. And for people dealing with loss (see previous post) the holidays can present painful reminders of loved which can be difficult to process.
5 Ways to Avoid Holiday Stress
Though the holiday season can create stress, this does not have to be the reality. A huge part of dealing with stress of any kind is recognizing the potential stressors and finding ways to lessen them. This will allow you to truly focus on enjoying the positive vibes and warm feelings that the holidays bring. So, here are 5 ways to avoid holiday stress and create lasting and positive memories with your loved ones.
- Remember the reason for the season: With the commercialization of the Christmas holiday, promotional sales and emphasis on gift giving, it is easy to forget the true meaning behind the season. For those who celebrate it, the Christmas season is about celebrating Jesus’s birth, God’s love and of giving of self to others. The Christmas holiday gives friends and families opportunities to come together in peace and enjoy each other’s company, share food and laughter with a spirit of joy and happiness. So, make that the main thing as your gather.
- Avoid overcommitting: Whether you’re visiting your family or friends or giving to others, you should avoid overcommitting. You can’t please everyone and there is no point in stretching yourself too thinly, making yourself unhappy or taking on debt to do so. Manage your time and energy and be realistic about your budget or what you can afford to spend. The best gift and joy of the season should be in the quality of time spent in the company of those you love and not how much you gave or received.
- Practice Self Care: In your efforts to be all things to everyone during the holidays, be a good host or make the festivities fun, it’s easy to forget about taking care of yourself. Be intentional about setting aside some “me” time to do something that is just for you. Ensure that you get enough sleep and rest when you need to. This will help you to avoid become overly tired and irritable and dampening spirits anyways. And while the holidays might involve indulging in your favorite foods, don’t overdo it. Be careful not to consume anything that will seriously derail or compromise your overall health goals or make you sick. Eat and drink responsibly!
- Be kind to yourself and others: The holidays are supposed to be a time of cheer and joy with loved ones celebrating with each other. Be sensitive to the people who are coping with loss and who might be triggered by the holiday season. Regardless of the type of loss (Death of a loved one, a broken relationship, loss of employment or hardship) be respectful, understanding, and supportive. It costs you nothing to show empathy and offer a word or encouragement to someone who is struggling. And if you are struggling with feelings of unhappiness or any form of mental health issue, remember that is ok to acknowledge your feelings. Just try not to dwell on them and ask for help when you need to.
- Manage your thoughts and emotions: You really can’t control the behaviors and actions of anyone else but yourself. Resist the temptation to become offended or respond to careless comments made by friends and family members that will lead to arguments. Choose not to engage in any interactions that drains your energy and leaves you feeling sad or down. Sometimes being right or having the last word simply isn’t worth it. Give your self-permission to be quiet when you need to. Assume positive intent, ask questions, and don’t make assumptions. Life is too short for you to spend time creating stories that are only real in your head.
In conclusion, just as with make-up, less is more during the holiday season. The children in your life do not need expensive gifts to be happy and the adults in your life already have what they need. The true spirit of the season lies in creating memories that will last a lifetime and spreading joy and peace wherever you go. Happy Holidays to you and your family!
Until next time- Remember, ItsALearningLife!