Stressed for the holidays - When Christmas Comes Around

Stressed for the holidays
When Christmas Comes Around


It's that time of the year for family, friends, and food. As we engage in the hustle and bustle, we begin pushing ourselves to the max and attempting to create the perfect Hallmark holiday season. However, as we enjoy our festivities it can bring unwanted guests. I don’t mean the long-lost cousin or the family member that brings ugly sweaters each year, but stress, anxiety, and depression.

This time of year, everyone is stressed for one reason or another. Don’t take it personal! Everyone is doing the best they can at any given moment. For example, driving down the expressway and someone is yelling at you (in their car) because you are only going 10 over the speed limit. You can see them, but you can’t hear them. The frustration and anger this person is expressing (silently) has nothing to do with you, it’s not personal, you are just caught in the crossfire of their holiday stress.

Typical holiday stress and what is unnecessary stress.

6 Typical holiday stressors

Shopping- Stress to impress! The frustration of waiting for your package to arrive on time, shopping in stores or online, standing in lines, and waiting until the last minute to shop. Utilize early sales, clearance, and thrift stores, or limit the number of gifts for the dollar amount you buy each person. Unnecessary stress is buying everything on someone’s list, getting the most expensive gift, or spending a significant amount on the person who has everything. Don’t spend beyond your means, don’t max out your credit cards, or borrow money to create the ideal gift.

Finances- “When prosperity comes, do not use all of it.” ~Confucius~ Holidays can be expensive, buying the newest toy or game console, multiple gifts for multiple people, or hosting the festivities. Try to plan as much as you can in advance and budget what you will spend on food, travel, and gifts. If it is financially feasible, start a holiday savings account, and shop clearance/sales, and there is no shame in using coupons. Try to research your travel plans, lodging, airfare, gas, and accommodations, because last-minute travel plans can be costly.

Family-Are you serious Clark.” ~ National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. Family can be a major stressor even when you have good relationships. Many of us struggle with perfectionism, people pleasing, over or under-planning, or time management. Stop adding unnecessary stress to your life to make the perfect holiday event for friends and family. Try opting for less and share the responsibilities, delegate, and communicate what you are able and willing to do. If your mother-in-law doesn’t like your cheesy potato recipe that everyone else loves- Ask her if she would like her to bring a dish this year or take the year off and have her bring her potato dish. Avoid power struggles with difficult family members, accept the aunt who doesn’t like anything and be ok knowing it will happen again this year. Be mindful of schedules/time, travel, health, number of people you invite to a party. No holiday dates or plus ones for dinner if possible! Work on setting boundaries to minimize the stress with your family and friends.

Boundaries – “When we fail to create boundaries and make people accountable, we feel used and mistreated.” ~ Dr. Brene Brown. Setting boundaries with family, friends, and yourself. Avoid giving in to last-minute requests, attending multiple events, and unrealistic accommodations, and limit the discussions on uncomfortable topics or conversations on your personal life. Limit the unnecessary stress you put on yourself. For example, this year you will be hosting but find yourself in a financial situation where it is not realistic for you to host, especially when you have a large family. Stick to the boundaries for the sake of your mental health. Say no and ask for help with no apologies!

Health awareness- COVID, COLD, FLU, Oh my. Stick to your regular diet and activities as much as possible. This includes the kiddos who are out of school for the next few weeks. Be mindful of others, this is a time for togetherness but if you are sick or recently had a covid, cold/flu, or any other viral/bacterial symptoms, think about others’ health as well as your own. We have spent the last 2.5 years fighting covid and now are in the flu season so engage responsibly. The CDC’s suggestion is to wear a mask, keep your distance, and wash your hands. 

Mental Health- Fight the Fight.  What does the holiday season mean to you, what is your intention and how do you manifest it? As we know stress affects anxiety, depression, and physical/medical issues. Avoid isolation, be mindful of burnout, compassion fatigue, emotional vampires, or giving more than taking. Maintain all routines, especially when you have children. Don’t put off self-care because it is the holiday, engage in self-care because it is the holidays. Try to take time for yourself (20-30 minutes) or still a few extra moments with your partners. I encourage clients to put their phone away or on mute while spending time with their partner each day. Be present, don’t criticize yourself for eating or drinking more than normal, try not to be sorry about things that are not in your control, and eat, drink, and socialize in moderation.

Also, be mindful and respectful of those who don’t celebrate your particular holiday, which has different traditions, and those who are struggling with grief/loss, loneliness, anxiety, depression, or substance use, and medical limitations. Tis the season to celebrate by togetherness, catching up, and slowing down so you can be present. Stress and frustration are going to happen during this time of the year. How are you going to manage it?  As you safely maneuver this year’s holiday season, ask yourself what you are overly stressed about, whether is it realistic to change, and is this decision(s) helpful or unhelpful. Reflect on the year and see what you want to improve or change next year, be kind, and practice self-care and self-love.

Happy Holidays and Be well.

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