The holidays are supposed to be the brightest and most festive days of the year. Holiday lights, music, and parties suggest that all is well and everyone is happy. Unfortunately, this time of year also leads to a lot of stress which can trigger depression. Some of the causes of holiday related stress include, but are not limited to:
Financial ability to provide presents and host parties and dinners
Travel to see family or friends
Family or friends visiting and/or staying at your home
Pressure to acquire the perfect presents for your loved ones
Being alone or away from family during the holidays
Weather related stressors
Luckily, these triggers do not have to lead to stress. You still have some control over the situation and your emotions. Try some of the following suggestions to help minimize the manifestation of stress and control it when it does arise.
Start with using either a calendar you can put up in your home or simply the one on your smartphone. Map out all of the events and demands on your time as you become aware of them. This can then help you to eliminate stress that comes from forgetting obligations or events and trying to do a lot last minute.
Once you have your calendar in place, the next thing to plan ahead is meals. Use any time you have now, or on a weekend, to either make meals you can freeze or prepare foods with which you can quickly create a meal, such as chicken, rice, and vegetables. This will help you to avoid spending even more money eating out and also help you and your family to eat healthy during a time when the many holiday treats are likely to take a toll on your health habits.
Even if all your exercise consists of is stretching for a few minutes before you start your day, this will make a big difference in your ability to manage stress. Fitting in exercise is all about prioritizing your time, so see what you can do to fit in a good workout a few days per week. You can also watch for holiday deals at studios or gyms near your home or where you will be spending the holidays to encourage yourself to meet this goal.
Be Aware of Sugar, Alcohol and Caffeine Consumption
While sugar, alcohol, and caffeine are commonly used as coping mechanisms, and are especially accessible this time of year, these are not healthy ways to manage stress. These substances will indeed give you relief for a bit but require continued intake in order to sustain these results. Enjoy yourself and have a treat now and then but look for healthier ways (such as exercise as mentioned above) to reduce your holiday stress.
Begin Each Day with Gratitude
At the start of each day, find ways to acknowledge those blessings in your life you are grateful for. It may be something as simple as being grateful your child slept through the night or that your family is together for the holidays. As suggested here, keeping these things in mind will provide a powerful source of positive energy to carry you through any stress that may arise during the holidays.
Know Your Limits
There is often a lot of pressure to do everything yourself but this is not necessary, especially during the holidays. Don’t hesitate to ask for help when everything seems to be too much. Maybe you can arrange a trade with a parent to watch each other’s children while the other goes shopping, or ask the family members staying at your house to help prepare the big holiday dinner. Allow others who offer to host meals or parties rather than having everything in your home.
Once you have reached your limit, be willing to say no to additional obligations. Do not allow yourself to be weighed down by too many expectations or sense of duty, even those imposed on yourself! In the end, you want to enjoy this time of year and you need to do what will be best for you and your family.
Finally, keep in mind the stress and hectic schedules you are experiencing are most likely being felt by those around you too. Be patient with those you interact with and help to spread holiday cheer rather than increase stress in another person’s life. Who knows? Maybe you will make someone’s day better and inspire them to pay it forward.
By utilizing some of these techniques to prevent and then manage stress, you can help this holiday season to go by more smoothly. You will find you are able to enjoy yourself and really take in the festivities around you.