Tips For Tackling The Stress That Comes During The Holiday
A calmer, stress-free you is the best gift of all
The holiday season can be such a beautiful and joyous time of year. There is so much excellent food, time spent with friends and family, and lots of fun and festive events to attend. With all of these wonderful things surrounding us, it can be very easy to over-commit ourselves, resulting in stress and holiday burnout. When this happens, it takes a time that is supposed to be fun and exciting and turns into a time that we find ourselves dreading. In this article, let’s discuss the most common stressors during the holiday season and then provide some helpful tips on managing those stresses.
The potential stress of gift-giving can be stressful in two ways. First, we can often feel we have to give the “perfect” gift, and second, the financial stress of purchasing gifts and the other costs associated with the holidays. The excitement of holiday shopping that starts on Black Friday could also be where this particular stressor begins for some people. This can be where people start stressing over finding that “perfect” gift for all of their friends and loved ones. It can be so easy to get caught up in the excitement that, if caution is not exercised, can lead to the second stressor, namely the stress of excessive spending.
We can take several actions to prevent gift-giving from becoming a source of holiday stress:
• Make a list of all the people you need to buy a gift for, listing those with the highest priority at the top.
• Create realistic expectations for yourself while acknowledging what is most important to you and know that it is OK to say “no” to the other holiday events that may require gift-giving.
• Remember what the holiday season is truly about.
Commercialism can quickly take over, so be mindful in remembering that the relationships we have with people in our lives matter more than the material things we buy for them.
After discussing gift-giving, it seems like a natural segue into discussing the financial stressors of the holiday season. 2020 and 2021 presented with additional financial stress due to COVID-19. Many people did not have the same financial resources they may have had in previous years; even so, there are also several ways to handle the financial stress that comes with the holidays. First, create a budget for holiday spending and track the money that has been spent. This will create a visual representation of your expenditures, hopefully allowing you to prevent overspending. Second, avoid environments that may be particularly tempting for you to spend money. While it is not possible to avoid all shopping environments, limiting time spent in stores and online can help prevent impulse buying. Third, explore the possibility of using credit card points from previous purchases to help offset the expenses of holiday shopping. It is beneficial to point out that to avoid postholiday financial stress, a smart shopper should make a point to stay away from going into credit card debt in an attempt to “afford” the holidays.
Friends and Family
For many people, the increase in time spent with friends and family can also increase stress. It can seem overwhelming trying to fit in time with all of those we care about. Another source of stress can be the idea of being around friends and family that may be difficult to be around. As mentioned earlier, it is important to acknowledge what events are most important to you and attend those feeling happy to be there, rather than stressed because you have stretched yourself too thin. When dealing with difficult friends or family members, I believe the most important thing to remember here is that sometimes we have to agree to disagree. It is perfectly OK not to agree with those you care about, and it’s important to accept the fact that you may not change someone’s mind on a given point. It can be helpful when engaging with these particular loved ones to only discuss topics you agree on, keep the conversation light, and avoiding such issues as politics and religion. These two are two of the most common areas of disagreement. Lastly, know when to end a conversation. This can be done by politely changing the conversation or moving from the exchange onto an activity that you all enjoy doing.
Grief and Loss
The holidays can be a challenging time for those experiencing the loss of a loved one or grieving a failed relationship. Both of these situations can lead to feelings of sadness and increased stress levels. Fortunately, there are some things that an individual can do to help alleviate these feelings and have a more enjoyable holiday.
First, it is important to acknowledge that the holidays will be different and expect that a range of emotions can be experienced during this time. It will be important to ask yourself what traditions you may want to keep and some that you may not wish to continue any longer. It can also be helpful to ask yourself if you’re going to celebrate with the same people and in the same place. This will allow you to feel more control over your environment and overall holiday experience. Next, it is important to find a way to include the memory of the lost loved ones in the holiday celebration. This could be as simple as sharing stories about the deceased or incorporating activities that they enjoyed doing. Another option could be having a seat for them at the table with a framed photo of them in place of a plate; this can be anything you are comfortable with. The important part is not to forget them and make them a continued part of your celebration.
It is common to feel a certain level of stress during the holidays, and these feelings can come from the things included in this article or from some other source. Regardless of where your holiday stress comes from, it is important to recognize how you handle it. Ask yourself if you are engaging in unhealthy behaviors like drinking too much or eating poorly as ways to cope. Finally, take care of yourself. Keeping your mind and body healthy through proper diet, sleep and exercise will allow you to tackle the stresses of the holidays with a lot more ease.
Jennifer Derrick, LPC-Intern, email@example.com, (318) 759-7876. Shreveport Counseling and Restoration Center