Tips For Managing Holiday Stress

Keep joy in your holidays with these stress-management tips.

The Holidays Are Coming. And that means all kinds of festive celebrations filled with family, friends, and food. As much as we look forward to those holiday traditions and events, they can often become a source of stress and anxiety, for a wide variety of reasons. Keep your holidays happy by managing all of that holiday hustle and bustle. We’ve got some tips to help stuff our stockings with joy rather than stress.

Plan ahead.

There are so many ways this is helpful. Between travel to party planning, gift-shopping, and parties, it is easy to find ourselves in a tizzy. If you can, start holiday shopping early when shelves are stocked and there are fewer people in the malls. And stick to a budget! It’s easy to go overboard with gift buying, but a greater gift is to not be surprised by a hefty credit card bill in January.

Once gift shopping is out of the way, attention can be turned to party planning. From big dinners to small cocktail parties, be sure to enlist the help of family and friends in the preparations (and clean up) and don’t feel bad about some store-bought shortcuts. There’s no reason for every item on the menu to be made from scratch, so cut yourself some slack and let the grocery store do some of the heavy-lifting.

Holiday travel will be crazy; it always is and always will be. But that doesn’t mean we need to get caught up in the chaos. If possible, hit the road or the skies at times that allow you to avoid rush hour. Flight delays and traffic are a sure-fire way to stir up some holiday ire, and those delays are inevitable. Do your best to plan ahead to help avoid those headaches.

Make time for yourself.

When those stress levels start to rise, it’s extra important to set aside time for yourself. Take a minute to breathe. Find a quiet space, away from noise and family and exercise a little self-care. This quiet time will help calm frazzled nerves, allow for a moment of peace, and give us a moment to regroup and return to our holidays with a renewed spirit.

Eat and exercise.

Yes, eat. Of course, this means indulging in all the wonderful comfort foods, treats, and drinks that are such a fun part of the holiday tradition. But we also mean eating well. Don’t skip meals! Skipping meals can lead to overeating, which will then cause us to fall into a food coma, and out of sleepiness turn to more sugar or caffeine to counterbalance. As at any time of year, a well-balanced meal plan helps to keep us energized, especially one that is full of good foods like leafy greens, fruits, fiber, and protein. We like whole grain toast with avocado and tomato slices for breakfast or a snack. Not only does it look festive, but it will fill us with sustainable energy!

Exercise is the best medicine for stress. If weather permits, go out and enjoy a brisk walk in the cool, crisp air. A good walk will get the blood moving, but also inspire taking those deep breaths we mentioned before as a part of “Me Time.” If you’re a gym-goer, stick to your workout schedule, even leading up to the holidays. You’ll feel all the better for it!

Express gratitude.

In the midsts of all the hullabaloo, we are easily distracted from recognizing what we’re grateful for. It seems a bit cliché at this time of year, but gratitude is far more valuable than any gift we might receive. Saying thank you, giving a compliment, expressing kindness, showing love…these are all gifts that we can give as signs of our gratitude during the season of giving. We know this can be hard, with so many demands and expectations that come with the holiday season. So often we demand and expect gratitude from kids (especially when gift giving and Santa are involved), but we also can show that we are grateful by showing love and kindness through simple acts and gestures. Rake the leaves for an elderly neighbor, call your grandmother, send a letter or card instead of a text message. Small acts of gratitude can go a long way.

Out with the old and in with the new.

Change up old holiday habits with something new. This does not mean you exhaust yourself by executing your holiday Pinterest board with all the creative ideas for entertaining and decorating. Consider one or two traditions that can get a make-over or simply be taken off of the to-do list. Make “less is more” a new holiday tradition; for example, instead of a big family gift exchange, skip the gifts and just have a party.

Keep family differences off of the menu.

Politics and family squabbles should be kept at the door. In keeping with the idea of gratitude, try to appreciate your family members, even when they’re saying or doing those annoying things that just drive you crazy. These times to gather everyone together under one roof are few-and-far-between, and it’s good to catch up with extended family. Around the dinner table is not the place to rehash family drama or engage in divisive political discourse. If you need to, step outside for a little break, and take some solace in knowing that you only need to be with your family for a couple of hours.

Say No.

Say No to too much food and (dare we say) too much fun. It’s unhealthy to cram in too much of a good thing, like holiday food and parties. While we often feel obliged to say Yes to all the things that come with the season, it is healthy to say “no,” especially when you’re already feeling overwhelmed. Say Yes to rest, and recognizing when an overbooked schedule will equal a bad time rather than a good one.

In many ways, the holidays are like fireworks; they go up with a flash and just as quickly fizzle away. In a season intended for celebration and happiness, often sadness and anxiety get in our way of truly enjoying the festivities. When we take steps to manage holiday stress, we’re able to find more joy.