Beneath the glowing lights, carved turkeys, gift wrap and get-togethers, holiday stress can find its way into your life.
After all, somebody has to foot the bill for all those goodies.
Then, of course, there’s all the planning and errand running that goes into it.
Besides, not everyone is a huge fan of family time, and reunions can be a drag.
By the time it’s all said and done, the holidays can turn into one big headache.
However, the good news is that holiday stress doesn’t have to beat you down.
With the right practices, you can stay bright and cheerful this holiday season.
Causes of Holiday Stress
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), most Americans feel their stress increase during the holidays. (1)
Some of the most common causes of holiday stress are:
More often than not, these crummy feelings are caused by shopping (18 percent), money (13 percent) and commercialism (5 percent). (1)
Family and bad weather are also major stressors.
1. Holiday Stress from Toxic Family Relationships
Think you’ve evolved this year?
Try spending a weekend with your extended family. It’ll bring you back to reality real quick!
Most people have at least one cousin, sibling or parent that really grinds their gears, and they always seem to find a way to test your patience.
Ultimately, the holidays require compromise, including whom we spend time with.
When it comes to toxic relatives, don’t put a ton of pressure on yourself to be a bundle of joy.
Be respectful, be friendly, but don’t set the bar too high.
2. Holiday Stress from Financial Stress
Holidays or no holidays, money is the main source of stress for a lot of families.
With that said, the added pressure of gift-giving and party-throwing can really crank up the stress.
Believe it or not, going into debt is a holiday tradition for many people.
What an awful way to start the new year!
Instead of making the holidays all about gifts, make it all about spending time with loved ones.
3. Holiday Stress and Facing the Year’s Regrets
The holidays can feel like a silent competition of who accomplished what.
Did you accomplish everything you set out to do this year?
If not, the holidays have a way of making us dwell on it.
4. Holiday Stress and Reliving Childhood Memories
Unhappy memories might surface during the holidays.
After all, you’ll probably be spending time with people whom you’ve known since you were a kid.
If you had a not-so-pleasant childhood, these memories can weigh heavy on the heart.
5. Holiday Stress and Eating and Drinking Too Much
‘Tis the season to over-indulge!
For many of us, the holiday season is also the “cheating-on-my-diet season.”
However, the hectic holidays are one of the worst times to eat poorly.
First off, it’s the heart of the cold and flu season.
Combine that with cold weather, lack of sleep and too much holiday stress, and you’ve got a recipe for illness.
Throw alcohol into the mix, and you’ll be asking for a cold. (2)
6. Holiday Stress and Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a big problem in northern latitudes where the winter sun is hard to come by. (3)
Ultimately, dreary weather only intensifies the emotional challenges of the holidays.
For starters, vitamin D from the sun is essential to hormone production.
In fact, without natural sunlight, rates of fatigue and depression typically soar. (4)
To make matters worse, most people don’t spend enough time in natural environments, and nature is one of the best natural stress relievers. (5)
Five Tips for Beating Holiday Stress
When it comes down to it, the holidays can make you feel out of control.
After all, the to-do lists can be long, and there is usually plenty of last-minute crisis to handle.
Ultimately, it takes a lot of planning, will power and positivity to pull through.
1. Just Say No
As the holiday stress starts to pick up, set the habit of saying no right out the gate.
After all, you don’t want to become the go-to person for everyone’s favors.
Of course, it’s still good to be generous, just make sure to do it on your own terms.
2. Get Ahead of Schedule
Write your big to-do list items down on paper and start checking boxes early.
Buying gifts, for example, can be done in September if you’re really determined.
That way when chaos strikes (which it always does), you’ll have plenty of wiggle room in your schedule.
3. Make a “For You” To-do List
A lot of holiday stress comes from taking care of other people, but what about you?
In the midst of baking, shopping, and sending cards, it can be easy to overlook your own needs.
To ensure that you get the love and care you need, make a list of activities that reduce stress and fill you with gratitude.
Alternate between doing a few things for others and doing a few things for yourself.
When you return to the grind, you’ll be in tip-top shape.
4. Take a Deep Breath
Breathing exercises and meditation are two of the most effective ways to reduce stress.
Plus, they’re free!
Research shows that meditation can lower stress hormones. (6)
However, it’s also a practice that takes time to develop.
Breathing exercises, on the other hand, are easy to do right away.
Breathe in for five seconds, hold for five seconds, and breathe out for five seconds.
It’s that easy!
Plus, you can do it standing in line at the grocery store or riding the metro.
5. Eat Anti-inflammatory Foods
Chronic stress promotes inflammation.
Unfortunately, inflammation is the root of most diseases.
The last thing you want is to be sick while you have parties to plan.
Instead, fight inflammation and stay healthy with anti-inflammatory foods like:
Wild-caught salmon (7)
Feel free to contact us at Complete Care Health Centers for more advice about how to beat holiday stress.
We’re happy to answer any questions you may have about staying healthy during the holidays.