Managing holiday stress

Published by: LifeWorks,

Managing holiday stress

According to the American Psychological Association, we all feel stressed from time to time, but the holidays offer their special stressors that can make us feel even worse – such as a family get-together that devolves into a fight over politics or a shopping trip for gifts that maxes out your credit card. Or, you may have many extra tasks and events that need to be squeezed into an already tight schedule. You might find yourself trying to do the impossible in a short amount of time, on a limited budget, and with conflicting demands.

Some stress may be unavoidable at holiday times, but it doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. Here are some ways to ease the pressures on yourself and others in your family.

Reducing time stress

When holiday tasks and events lead to overload, take the following steps to ease the time crunch:

Set realistic expectations. No Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or other holiday celebration is perfect. So, ask yourself what part of the holiday matters most to you? If sharing time with family is the most important, why not skip the shopping and spend a day ice-skating or attend a free holiday concert with your little ones? Planning a festive meal at your house? Then say “yes” when others ask if they can bring something or have everyone contribute with a potluck-style feast. Including your guests in the preparation will make them feel part of the celebration.

Prioritize. Make a list of all the things you need to do; start with your top priorities first and do the rest if you have time. You may not be able to get to everything on the list, but the most important things will be done. Consider delegating some of the tasks to others. And, give yourself a break and try out free or low-cost apps for your smartphone that will help things run smoothly over the festive season. We recommend the Christmas Planner – a free gifts manager and shopping list app or the Christmas Gift List

Learn to say “no.” If you have a tendency to take on too much, learn to say “no” when people ask you to do just one more thing. Or maybe find a few shortcuts if you can’t resist saying “yes.” For example, send electronic greeting cards from Blue Mountain for a happy (and green) Christmas.

Dealing with financial stress

With gift buying, entertaining, and travel it can be challenging to manage your spending during the holidays. Here are some tips to help you avoid financial stress that may last long after the holidays have ended.

Set a realistic budget and stick to it. Identify how much you can spend before you go shopping or before you decide how many people to invite for a holiday meal and make a plan. This will keep you from spending more than you should.

Talk to children about financial limits. If you have a child who wants an expensive toy, it’s OK to tell him or her that everyone has financial limitations. Choose an alternative social activity over shopping. Remind them (and yourself) that family, friends and relationships matter more than material objects.

Pare down your gift list. Ask yourself if you could give fewer or less expensive gifts without hurting anyone’s feelings. Could you and your relatives agree to draw names and give gifts to only one or two people instead of everybody? Give homemade coupons that people can redeem after the holidays? Or could you set limits or rough guidelines for the cost of gifts, so relatives don’t feel pressured to overspend? Some families enjoy making homemade gifts, such as salad dressing, simple beaded jewelry, or a recording of favorite songs.

Has an extended family simply grown too big for the annual Christmas gift exchange? Perhaps it’s time to reduce the gift responsibilities with a “Secret Santa” system.

Navigating family stress

Family tensions can flare up quickly when you get together with relatives who have different personalities and different ideas about how to celebrate the holidays.

Set differences aside. Holidays may bring together family members who, at other times of the year, are happier apart. So it’s often best to avoid potentially heated discussion topics or save them for another time. And remember that you can decide whom you want to spend the holiday with and how much time you want to spend together. A holiday gathering is about getting along with people to the best of your ability, not about putting yourself in anxiety producing
or “loaded” situations.

According to the 2017 Stress in America Survey, 27 percent of adults strongly or somewhat agree that the political climate has caused strain between themselves and their family members.

Get emotional support. Handling the holidays when you’ve lost a loved one is difficult. If you miss people who have passed away or relatives who can’t be there to celebrate, reach out to friends or family who can give you emotional support. If the people close to you can’t provide support, or if you’re living far from them, then consider talking with a therapist or other counselor who can help, such as a spiritual adviser.

Families come in all shapes and sizes. If you have always wanted that big family but have a few family members living nearby, expand your family for the holiday to include people who might be alone. Or if you find a big family gathering too overwhelming, invite a few close relatives rather than going to or having a big family gathering yourself. Talk with your partner and family about what you would like to try differently this year.

Plan ahead for holiday caregiving responsibilities. Talk early in the season with older relatives or other family members you care for about whether they have special holiday wishes or needs so you’ll have time to accommodate them. If you have questions about how to ease the stress of holiday caregiving and would like ideas from a supportive community, take a look at the Caregiving.com or the Family Caregiver Alliance.

Other tips to manage holiday stress

  • Be a kid again. Take some time to play and enjoy the scenery: notice people’s decorations and the yummy smells. Take a nature walk, go skating, try some deep-breathing exercises — whatever helps you relax for a while.
  • Stick with your daily routine. Prioritize your workouts, book club, etc., and don’t try to squeeze in more holiday than you can handle.
  • You’re not alone – everyone is dealing with the stress and pressure of holidays. So next time you are in a traffic jam at the mall, remember that you’re one of many people trying to get everything done on time. Think positive and don’t take the difficulty of finding parking spaces personally.

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