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Holiday Stress: 5 Tips to Manage It This Year

It seems like the holiday season starts earlier and earlier every year. Once September hits the aisles throughout stores become an odd mix of decorations for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all at once. Then November 1st rolls around and homes become a mix of pilgrims and pumpkin spice with Christmas trees and “Jingle Bells”.

Along with the decorations, there seems to come an expectation that everyone should be happy and overjoyed during the holidays. But, for many, this isn’t the case because “the most wonderful time of the year” brings with it a lot of holiday stress. If this is you, you don’t need to let the stress of the season steal your joy.

Holiday stress management tips:

1. Get and Stay Organized

Life is already busy for most people, but during the holidays it hits a new level. There are holiday parties, cookie swaps, presents to buy, cards to send, and school concerts to attend. And, along with all of that, your normal life and work responsibilities still need to be handled. With so many things going on at once, it’s easy to have something accidentally fall through the cracks.

Spend five minutes sitting down with pen and paper and do a massive brain dump. Write down every to-do that is on your mind, ingredient that needs to be bought, and event that you can’t forget to attend. Get it all in one place, and then start sorting it out. Create a grocery shopping list, present shopping list, event list, and to-do list. 

Once you have your lists, find a way to store them that will be easy for you to check on a regular basis. You could put the list in your purse or wallet or choose an app to use. A few effective apps to choose from include, Evernote, Asana, and Cozi. You can even add the lists to one of these apps and share it with other members of your family to easily divvy up the responsibilities. 

Make sure that you enter any important dates and reminders into your calendar. Schedule time to go shopping, bake cookies, and wrap the presents. And, don’t forget to schedule time for self-care (check out #5 for more details).

2. Take Control of Your Budget

If you are feeling stressed over your finances this holiday season many people can identify with you. A 2017 poll found that of those surveyed, 65% were losing sleep over their finances.1 And the holidays tend to bring added expenses. Here are a few ways to take control of your holiday spending:

  • Create a holiday budget for presents and don’t allow yourself to go over it. 
  • Don’t forget the little things. Presents aren’t the only added expense this time of year. Make sure you budget for things like a Christmas tree if you buy a live one, a larger grocery budget, gift wrap, and travel if you will be visiting family. 
  • Start shopping early. If you wait until the last-minute you will be paying last-minute prices and have a limited selection to choose from. 
  • Don’t get caught up in the deals. It’s easy this time of year to overspend because you think you are getting a deal. Before you buy anything, comparison shop the price (there are apps to make it easy), make sure it’s something you need, and that you have the budget for it. “Buy 2 Get 1 free” is not a good deal if you don’t really need two of those items. And, the best deals aren’t always found on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Don’t feel bullied into having to buy.  

3. Be Mindful

Being mindful is simply the act of purposefully filling your mind with something positive or neutral so you don’t allow room for the negative and stressful thoughts. When your mind starts running and you feel your blood pressure starting to rise, shift your mind to something else. It could be the thought of sitting on a beautiful beach in the warm sunshine feeling the sand between your toes while you listen to the lapping waves on the shore or the happy faces of your excited children shining in the lights of the Christmas tree. It’s up to you to actively choose what works for you.

You can also use mindfulness to stay present in the current moment. For example, instead of stressing over your growing to-do list as you attend a holiday party fill your thoughts with what you are currently doing. Take in the smiling faces all around you, listen to the sounds of laughing and holiday music while smelling the freshly baked sweets. Let your senses go to work for you in helping you shift your focus from your stress to what you could be enjoying now. 

4. Set Boundaries

It’s ok to admit that you are only one person and can’t do it all. In fact, it’s good for your mental health to come to grips with this fact. You don’t have to attend every event, bake every treat, and volunteer every time you are asked this holiday season. Start early by establishing boundaries for yourself. Decide where you need to draw the line and then don’t be afraid to say “No” when the activity or event doesn’t line up with what fits within your boundaries. 

Here are a few things to remember:

  • Your to-do list doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s list. If you decided that you don’t want to participate in any cookie swaps this year because you don’t want to add the extra stress of baking 5 dozen cookies, then you don’t have to. Simply explain that you aren’t doing extra baking this year, or don’t give a reason at all. You don’t need to provide reasons to others on why you are saying no. 
  • Someone else’s lack of planning is not your emergency. If you are the go-to person who always swoops in last-minute to save everyone else from their own mistakes let them know early that you aren’t doing it this year. Then, stick to it. You don’t need to drop your own plans to help someone else that wasn’t properly prepared.

5. Practice Self-Care

If you’re looking for how to relieve stress this holiday season, then self-care is where you need to focus. Don’t let your busy schedule break your normal routine. If you run yourself ragged, you will be too tired to enjoy the events you are working so hard for. 

  • Stay active. Exercise is a great way to reduce holiday stress. Look for ways to stay active whether it’s a power-walk around the mall or squeezing in a short workout in the morning. Exercise gives you an outlet for stress and releases all those mood-boosting endorphins. It can also help you get better rest at night.
  • Watch what you’re eating. Loading up on sugary treats throughout the season can be difficult on your system. I’m not saying don’t allow yourself to enjoy what the season has to offer, but make sure you are getting the food your body needs as well. This also helps you avoid the sugar crash that comes with overindulging on sweets and the guilt that comes along with it. 
  • Schedule me-time. It’s important that you set aside time to rest during the holiday season. Plan out times to do things that help you recharge. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

It’s ok to ask for help this holiday season. This could be help with your ever-growing to-do list or just help for yourself.  If you are experiencing grief, depression, anger, or just going through a rough time in life you might not feel full of joy like you “think” you should. Find a trusted family member or friend that you can confide in, or, contact a therapist in your area.

Don’t allow the stress of the season to steal your joy. If you don’t accomplish everything you thought you were going to, it’s okay. We spend so much time trying to stress to children the real reason for the holidays and sometimes we need to give ourselves the same reminder. 

References:

  1. Porche, B. (2017, Apr 19). Poll: 2 in 5 Americans lose sleep over health care costs: Financial insomnia is at its highest level since the Great Recession. Retrieved from https://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/losing-sleep-money-worries-poll.php
Holiday Stress: 5 Tips to Manage It This Year

Julie K. Jones, Ph.D., LPC

Julie K. Jones, Ph.D., LPC is the owner and director of Well Life Therapy, LLC, a private group psychotherapy practice in Middletown, CT. She and her clinical team offer a wide range of services and specialties including perinatal/postpartum support, trauma recovery, couples and family counseling, and teen/young adult assistance. She is a founding member and board member of the Connecticut Chapter of Postpartum Support International.


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APA Reference
Jones, J. (2018). Holiday Stress: 5 Tips to Manage It This Year. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 21, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/holiday-stress-5-tips-to-manage-it-this-year/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 19 Nov 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 19 Nov 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.