The holiday season is an opportunity to spend time with family and friends, to take some time out, and indulge ourselves a little. For all the joy and fun, though, sometimes we get a little stress thrown in alongside.
The expectations that go along with attending social events, gift shopping, and entertaining guests can become too much for even the most festive types. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, 8 out of 10 people expect to experience an increase in stress over the holiday season.
With stress comes a greater risk of anxiety and depression, and, for some people, depression is frequently an unwelcome guest over the holidays.
All is not lost however - there are many ways you can minimize your stress and anxiety to allow you to truly enjoy the season.
Here are some ideas to try:
Set A Budget and Stick to It
Shopping can be fun, but spending money isn’t always easy. The average British family is expected to spend over £800 celebrating Christmas this year, with the majority of that being spent on food, drink, cards and decorations, whilst Americans spend almost $1,000 every holiday season on gifts alone. The spend is probably unavoidable, but you can minimize the damage and avoid the scenario where you're still paying for this Christmas at the same time NEXT year.
A lot of the stress that we experience during the holidays is due to financial pressure and the Mayo Clinic suggests that setting a budget can be beneficial to your stress levels. Work out how much you can afford to spend on food and gifts, and stick to it.
Get Some Exercise
We're encouraged to stay active all the time, but it’s extremely important to keep that up during the holidays. Any activity or exercise you can fit in will help reduce your stress and elevate your mood. It’s going to stimulate endorphin production and trigger a positive feeling in your body.
You might be busy, but if you can find time to exercise for just half an hour three times a week over the holiday period, you'll feel better. You can go for a walk after your Christmas lunch or fit in an early morning jogging, swimming or biking session before your guests are up and about each day.
Take It Easy
With everything that's going on at this time of year, we sometimes need to be reminded that we need to take time for ourselves. There are parties and gatherings and many of us are constantly surrounded by people. For most, this is the best part of the holiday season - the opportunity to be with the ones we love, remember the ones who are no longer with us and laugh about the old days.
You shouldn’t miss all those great times, but what you should be careful of is setting unrealistic expectations. You can’t do everything, and it’s okay to take time out for yourself, even if it’s just 15 minutes.
If you do a lot of hosting, make sure you delegate - whether you ask everyone to bring a different dish, or you rope in family members to take on certain tasks such as washing dishes, clearing the table or keeping everyone's drinks topped up.
The holiday season is a time of indulgence, but that doesn’t mean you need to completely abandon your regular healthy ways. Over-eating at this time of year can lead to a general feeling of sluggishness. (Not to mention frequent bouts of indigestion and a lingering worry in the back of your mind about your ability to fit into that fab new outfit you bought to wow everyone on New Year's Eve.)
Enjoy yourself, but try having healthy snacks before holiday gatherings so you don’t over-indulge while you’re out. Make sure that you’re getting plenty of sleep, as you're more likely to overeat after a poor night’s sleep.
Choose Your Battles
We all have someone in our circle that rubs us the wrong way. It’s only natural - not everyone can always get along. Allowing someone else to get under your skin, though, is only going to ruin your holiday and increase your stress levels. Learn to pick your battles, and don’t take the bait.
If you have a real problem with someone, set it aside and save it for another day. Try to keep your distance and count to 10 before you rip into them. Even the calmest people can lose their cool during the holidays but it can save a lot of bad feeling and embarrassment if you can find the strength to just walk away.
Self-care is a conscious choice and this is even more true during times of increased stress, such as the holiday season. Make sure to take the time and create a deliberate plan! Remember, the holidays are supposed to be a time of fun, family and relaxation, don’t let stress interfere with this great time of year.