5 Tips to Beat Holiday Stress while Enjoying Yourself

5 Tips to Beat Holiday Stress while Enjoying Yourself

The build up to the festive time is normally filled with drinking, eating mince pies, reuniting with family, and having a good time. But for most of us, this can also be a time for holiday stress. This article focuses on 5 tips on how to avoid this.

For some, the Christmas holidays bring about feelings of the pressure of being obligated to socialise more with family or friends that they are apprehensive about. Others might struggle with the temptation of overindulgence or overspending. Whatever the reason behind your worries, Christmas stress and anxiety is very real and can seriously impact your mental health.

Stress can affect us in various ways including nausea, constant butterflies, sleep deprivation, weight loss or even weight gain.

Looking at causes of holiday stress, how it impacts and how to avoid allows us to take the pressure off. Actively trying to take steps to limit your holiday stress can be difficult but necessary so that you can enjoy Christmas too (let’s face it no-one wants to be a ‘slave to Christmas’).

Holiday stress tip 1: Be Organized

The lead up to Christmas can create immense pressure to decorate, cook a feast, gift-giving, send cards, creating Christmas magic. This may seem so important, especially when you have small children, that when you don’t execute what you exactly want, you feel dejected, exactly the opposite of the holiday’s spirit. Outline what you need to achieve for the holidays, focus on making more moments you enjoy and cut down on doing too much. This prioritises everything so you’ll be able to complete the tasks that need to be done. If some are incomplete, get creative! Maybe order some of the dinner or limit the amount of Christmas decoration. The important thing is to do less and have a good time together.

Holiday stress tip 2: Stick to a budget

Before any gift or food shopping, create an overall budget for the holidays and stick with it. Be honest with what you can afford.  Avoid unnecessary purchases. Are you sure you need to buy gifts for extended family and your work colleagues? Do you need that expensive turkey from M&S?  Avoiding or limiting these types of purchases can help you prioritise expenses and think about what is really important to you. If your budget is smaller, try buying cheaper food items and making presents by hand such as body scrubs and biscuits (so easy). Having fun for Christmas doesn’t mean breaking the bank.

Holiday stress tip 3: Learn to say no and stick to your boundaries

Christmas is a very social holiday that can lead to you being socially drained, feeling forced to agree to participate in activities or projects (have you seen the film ‘Four Christmases’!). But you can’t be everywhere at once while still trying to make time for yourself.  Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t or don’t want to do certain things. Remember “no” is a full sentence. Additionally, it’s equally important for you to recognise your limits. Focus on completing your normal daily routine, don’t try to do more than you can handle.

Holiday stress tip 4: Take a Break

Families can be a lot. Grandparents, parents, and siblings know exactly how to increase holiday stress. Be aware of your feelings and take a breather. If you feel the stress building, pause, excuse yourself and breathe before responding, remember it’s only one day. Better yet, try going on a walk or listening to soothing music. If you can’t do this alone, try inviting the family out for a walk. Most likely, your other family members are probably also feeling the stress of the holidays. Nature has a way of resetting the mood and allows those important hormones to help de-escalate the fight/flight responses stress causes.

Holiday stress tip 5: Be social

If you’re spending Christmas away from your family and friends, the isolation and stress can be overwhelming. While social media detoxes are encouraged, this is the best time of year to utilise modern technology. Skype, zoom call or facetime those away and have a virtual get together. Bring snacks and drinks and check in with your loved ones. Physical distance shouldn’t stop you from having fun with those you love.

What causes holiday stress?

Many factors contribute to holiday stress like unrealistic expectations, financial pressures, work, family and social pressure. Some people may feel anxious or depressed specifically around the wintertime due to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Other factors like feelings of sadness, loneliness, and loss all add to Christmas stress and can severely impact our mental health. It sounds funny but also ‘stopping’ can impact on our health. Getting off the treadmill is so important and is often where we start to see those signs of burnout creeping in.

How the holidays affect mental health

Christmas is traditionally the time of celebration, eating and spending time with family and friends. But for most people. the build up to Christmas can be stressful and potentially cause anxiety or depression. 26% of people say that Christmas makes their mental health worse and 54% of people say they get worried about the mental health of someone they know. Everything is more intense during Christmas, with more lights, more crowds, and more cheerfulness.

Those with depression anxiety and other mental health conditions tend to have to deal with the constant reminder that they ‘should’ be happy which can make them feel worse. People with anxiety experience an increased anxiety level at the prospect of meeting people, whether online or in-person and the pressure of meeting other’s expectations. Their usual worries are intensified. This large range of issues attributes to their regular mental issues which can build up to more triggering events occurring.

If you have recently lost a loved one this can also be a big stress factor. The ‘firsts’ when someone has passed away, such as the first Christmas can be really tough especially if they were a pivotal part of Christmas. Do you stick with the same traditions, do you change? What would they want?

Holiday Stress Statistics 2021

A YouGov survey of 2,109 adults in the UK found that nearly 1 in 3 adults reported the feeling of anxiety or stress during the festive season. Interestingly, a similar survey found that 51% of women found Christmas to be stressful compared to 35% of men. These figures show that stress leading up to or during the holidays is quite common, particularly for women.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here we tried to answer some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding holiday stress.

o   Q- What causes stress during the holidays?

  • A- In a study, it was found that the most common causes of holiday stress are the lack of time, money worries, over-commercialisation, gift-giving pressure, and family get-togethers. People also mentioned the hassle of travel and worries about getting time off from work.

o   Q- How do I get rid of holiday stress?

  • A- Like we mentioned in the article, taking breaks, planning, and taking the holidays at your own pace is a great way to manage your holiday stress. Other tips like dividing the workload and exercising are also ways to limit and eventually “get rid” of your anxieties or stress.

However, if you notice that your stress, anxiety, or depression is becoming too much to handle, seeking professional help is always highly advised.

o   Q- How do you handle holiday stress during COVID?

  • A- Being alone or not being able to see certain loved ones due to COVID during the festive period can be exceedingly painful and have negative effects on your mental health. One major tip recommended is to stick to a routine. Continue to try and eat healthy meals, get enough sleep, and include physical activity. Most importantly, consume alcohol in moderation and try to be social with those you are missing. Don’t forget you can stay connected in a virtual world so do book a call in with a friend/ family member.

All this information can be overwhelming but there are sites, charities, and people out there to help. Why not book a quick and free consultation with me, a life coach and therapist, and together we can work through an action plan to help you manage your stress and anxiety.

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