The holidays are traditionally a time for staying indoors warm and cozy while it snows, decorating the tree as a family, baking gingerbread cookies and enjoying classic holiday films on TV.
Realistically, however, we live in a world where Christmas decor comes out on October 1st, we feel obligated to attend every party we’re invited to and we feel stressed about finding the perfect gift, the perfect decorations or the perfect outfit.
So long silent nights.
But for those of us who simply refuse to let consumerism Christmas be a thing, there are a number of tips you can put into practice to keep your holidays peaceful, relaxing and beautiful, just as they were always meant to be.
Tips for managing holiday stress
There are certainly times when you may feel stressed during the holidays, but to mitigate that stress and maintain a sense of peace throughout, here are some things you can try:
Keep a schedule
Time management is important. You can plan your days and evenings to avoid over-committing yourself. First, schedule all your regular activities that are important to staying well, such as exercise or counseling sessions. Then, schedule your extra holiday activities. Make sure your schedule isn’t overloaded on any particular day. If you get an invitation and your calendar is full, feel free to refuse.
Watch your budget
Be wary of overspending on holiday gifts. It’s tempting to spend more than you can afford on gifts and other holiday responsibilities, but going over budget could actually further increase any anxiety you may be feeling.
Instead of extravagant gifts, take time to think about the people you are giving gifts to — be intentional with your gift giving; a relatively inexpensive or even handmade gift can mean so much more to a person if they can see the time and effort that was put into it.
Additionally, keep a close eye on your finances when planning parties; it can be tempting to go overboard, but there’s something perfect about simple beauty and decorating with tasteful minimalism.
Set boundaries with family
For a number of people, spending time with extended or immediate family can be a significant cause of stress. When going into a situation with family you struggle with, it can be helpful to have some strategies in mind to rely on when things get tough, including:
- Having realistic expectations – If you don’t expect them to behave or speak differently than in years past, you won’t be disappointed when nothing has changed
- Limiting your time – You might be expected to attend a family dinner, but if the obligation doesn’t extend past dessert, feel free to benefit yourself by leaving at the appropriate time
- Staying away from certain topics – If you know conversations about politics or romantic relationships don’t end well, don’t bring them up and definitely do not engage in discussions about them
If you feel yourself becoming increasingly frustrated, anxious or overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to take the initiative to leave the gathering. Don’t make a big deal about it, but simply tell the right people (the host or the sibling you’re close to, for example) that you have to go, thank them and make a quiet exit.
Let go of perfectionism
Society tends to further the notion of how “things should be” around the holidays. Don’t idealize what the holiday season should be. Your life and family are different from others, so an ideal holiday season doesn’t really exist. If you don’t have a Christmas photo shoot, an aesthetically perfect Thanksgiving table or a glamorous New Year, that’s ok.
The less pressure you put on yourself to have the perfect holiday, the more peaceful you will feel and the more enjoyable it is likely to be!
Take time for self-care
There are numerous aspects of the holidays that can make them feel overwhelming, some of which you can control, and others you simply cannot. For those times when you can’t control what’s going on around you — like a blizzard that canceled your holiday party — it’s important to be well-rooted in some self-calming/self-care exercises.
Strategies like yoga, meditation, diffusing calming essential oils are all helpful holistic therapies to utilize. Other methods like journaling, exercising and getting enough sleep can also benefit your mental health immensely during stressful times. Lastly, don’t be afraid to take evenings for yourself and your family. If you just need a night in, drinking cocoa and watching a Christmas movie, take the time to do it.
If your mental state isn’t at peace during the holidays, chances are not much else will feel peaceful either.
Additional support handling holiday stress
You might feel like you need to manage the stress of the holidays alone, but nothing is further from the truth. Odds are your close friends and tight family members care about your mental health and would want to know how they can help; consider opening up to them for additional support and healthy alternative outlooks when things become too challenging to handle alone.
Additionally, consider reaching out to The Light Program for professional mental health support when things become increasingly stressful or overwhelming. To learn more, call us anytime at 610-644-6464 or reach out through our website.