Yes, the holiday season can be magical — with all of its dazzling displays of lights, parades, festive parties, and fun family gatherings. But it can also be one of the most stressful times of the year and it’s not uncommon to start to feel overwhelmed, drained, or burnt out. Unlike many other types of negative stress we encounter in life, we know when holiday stress will begin and end, and we can make plans to reduce the amount of stress we experience and the negative impact it has on us.
The holidays are often a time when we focus on others by sending cards, buying gifts, and cooking food, but during high-stress times it is more important than ever to make time for yourself. If you know that the holidays are going to be stressful, plan accordingly and make sure you are scheduling some “me” time and carving out time for self-care. Our team and Lifestyle Medicine has six tips to help reduce holiday stress before it begins and help you manage it throughout the final frenzied days of the year.
Don’t Abandon Healthy Habits
The holiday season is all about giving — and that includes giving ourselves whatever we need to reduce stress so we can fully appreciate and find meaning during this time. Have a healthy snack before holiday meals so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese, or drinks. Get plenty of sleep. Include regular physical activity in your daily routine. Try deep-breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga.
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 or other relatives can’t come to your home, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails, or videos. Or meet virtually on a video call. Even though your holiday plans may look different this year, you can still find ways to celebrate.
Make Some Time for Yourself
The holidays are a great time to reconnect with family and friends. However, it’s also important to make time for yourself to help manage holiday stress. I know that can be hard with so much demand on your time. However, even something simple as taking a bath or meditating for 30 minutes can help reduce stress. Find an activity you enjoy. Take a break by yourself. Sometimes just spending some time alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do.
Maintain Your Routine
The holidays are a wonderful time, but they can also be tough schedule-wise. Time off work and celebrations can throw a wrench in your day-to-day routine, but maintaining that routine is a great way to manage stress. Try to maintain as much of your normal routine as you can. You can treat yourself and indulge in small ways. The holidays are not the time to make big changes. Get plenty of rest, watch your diet, exercise regularly, and prioritize the hobbies that keep you sane.
Know It’s Okay to Do Less
Many of us tend to go overboard during the holidays by taking on more than we can feasibly manage, from shopping to cooking to sending the perfect holiday card out to friends and family. Maybe this Holiday season, give yourself permission to do less. Set boundaries and say ‘no’ when you need to. Put yourself and your mental well-being first.
Limit Your Tech Use
Unplug! That incessant buzz of your cell phone produces a tiny burst of adrenaline in you each time it goes off. This can be disruptive, distracting, and – you guessed it – stressful. So, challenge yourself this holiday season to silence your devices, or better yet, leave them in another room for the evening so you can really practice being engaged. Whatever you’re spending your time doing, be it hanging out with your family or reading a book, do it whole-heartedly instead of with split attention.
No matter how you spend your holidays this year, we hope you find a little peace and joy. This doesn’t have to be a chaotic time for you and yours. Just remember, YOU are in control. Say yes to the things that make you happy this season, and always take time for yourself. Prioritize your own mental health so this really can be the most wonderful time of the year!