5 Tips to Avoid Holiday Stress and Anxiety
If you’re not feeling happy during the holidays, you’re not alone. For many people, holidays bring not only joy but also lots of stress. No matter whether you’re a perfectionist who wants to throw the best Christmas party or someone who’s not really excited about holidays, there are too many opportunities to get your share of stress.
Purchases, planning, meeting distant relatives, and many other things we deal with during holidays can leave you emotionally and financially exhausted. Even if you approach holidays well-prepared, they may still turn into a rather negative experience. Something that’s supposed to give you rest may make you want to rest afterward or even consider online talk therapy to deal with increased anxiety.
Let’s think of the causes of holiday stress and anxiety and take a look at some tips that will help you make your holidays more enjoyable.
What Is Holiday Stress?
Stress, in general, is a natural response to challenging situations. People experience stress not only when they are in danger but also when juggling countless responsibilities and dealing with too many tasks at once. Besides, there is an increased risk of holiday stress during the covid pandemic.
What causes stress during holidays? When talking to passive-aggressive relatives, participating in political discussions during the Christmas dinner, or getting stuck in holiday traffic, we can experience a lot of stress so our bodies get high doses of stress hormones, such as adrenaline or cortisol. Our muscles tighten and our heart rate increases.
Short-term stress can be beneficial — when you’re facing a real threat, stress triggers a survival mode, making all of your senses sharper. Similarly, stress can help you deal with challenging tasks more efficiently.
However, chronic stress can have many negative consequences for both your physical and mental health. Headaches, stomach problems, high blood pressure, decreased libido, and chest pains are just a few of the many effects of stress on the body.
When it comes to mental health, holidays create many risks. Not only are holidays joyful, but they can also be very demanding. Financial worries, the need to meet many people who you may not have seen for a long time, or staying at home alone when everybody is having fun can make you feel not only stressed out but also anxious or depressed.
People experience anxiety in different ways. For instance, you may get easily irritated, be unable to focus, or have difficulties with falling asleep. Symptoms of anxiety may also include fatigue, sweating, trembling, and increased heart rate.
Although one may experience some of these symptoms on a daily basis, they are more severe among people with anxiety, and in this case, such symptoms may have specific triggers. For example, you may experience holiday anxiety because of the need to juggle too many responsibilities, a poorly planned budget, and many other factors that we’ve mentioned above.
5 Tips to Prevent Holiday Stress and Anxiety
All of us need to know how to manage stress. Unfortunately, stress is unavoidable — it’s an integral part of our everyday lives. What you can change, however, is your reaction to stressors. Sometimes, we cannot control some circumstances, but we can control our thoughts that lead to negative emotions and anxiety.
Here are some tips that should help you withstand the holiday pressure.
1. Have a plan
Nothing fuels anxiety and stress like uncertainty. To stay in control of the situation, plan ahead and allocate specific days and time for all holiday-related activities, including shopping, cooking, and meeting friends.
Write down the menu and plan your shopping list according to it. This way, you won’t forget some ingredients so you won’t search for them at the last minute. Think of what gifts you can order online to spend less time shopping.
2. Manage your expectations
Make sure that your expectations are realistic. You don’t need these holidays to be perfect to enjoy them, and they don’t have to be the same as before. You may not be able to take into account some circumstances, and people may change their minds. Families also change, and so do traditions.
Don’t be afraid to improvise and don’t get disappointed if something doesn’t go as planned. Don’t be afraid to change traditions and start new ones. For instance, if some of your relatives cannot make it to your dinner, you can still make a video call.
3. Focus on the things you can control
You cannot control the weather or other people’s actions and thoughts, but you can control your own thoughts and actions. You cannot control what your kids decide to do when they get bored or what your relatives say around the table, but you can control the thoughts that you have when it happens.
There’s no reason to feel stressed out because of the things you cannot control, so the best solution is to just let go of them and focus on what you can control instead. Write down a list of such things and forget about everything else. Make your emotional well-being your main priority.
4. Set boundaries
As we’ve already mentioned above, one of the most common sources of holiday stress is interactions with other people, especially when these are your relatives. Sometimes, we don’t want to disappoint others so we may stop making our own decisions. The best way to avoid such situations is to set clear boundaries.
You decide who you invite to your party, how much you spend on gifts, or how long you stay with your relatives. Nobody can make such decisions for you, so you shouldn’t be afraid to communicate your boundaries and stick to them.
5. Consider therapy
If you want to manage anxiety, the best solution is to seek professional help. A licensed therapist can help you figure out what causes your anxiety and cope with it. All people are different, and a therapist can suggest grounding techniques for anxiety that will work for you.
If you don’t have much time for traditional in-person therapy, you can use online therapy platforms like Calmerry. This way, you won’t need to commute to a therapist’s office, being able to talk to them from virtually anywhere. You can learn more about therapy to prepare for your first session.
When it comes to mental health, holidays mean challenges. Holiday stress is unavoidable, and it can lead to anxiety. While it’s impossible to avoid some of the factors that cause stress, you can control your thoughts and choose what you focus on.
Manage your expectations and set clear boundaries. Plan everything ahead and focus on the things that you can control. If you’re experiencing holiday anxiety symptoms, don’t hesitate to try therapy for anxiety. Therapy can help you understand what stops you from enjoying your holidays and improve your overall emotional well-being.