Ways to Reduce Your Holiday Stress
According to a survey by StudyFinds, 88% of people view the holidays as the most stressful time of year.
While that number might be high, it’s not surprising given the stressors that abound: constant social obligations, gatherings with family you only see once a year, and financial strain, to name a few. Here are some ways you can reduce your stress levels through the holiday season, for the benefit of both your physical and mental health.
Take time for yourself. When your schedule is jam-packed with family obligations, social events, and endless check boxes on your to-do list, it’s hard to justify self-care. However, fitting in time for a bath, a massage, or your favorite workout class will benefit you immensely in the long run.
Not only will it rejuvenate you, but overworking yourself inevitably becomes counterproductive before long. After taking a break, you’ll come back with better energy and focus than if you’d tried to trudge through. Of course, this isn’t always logistically possible, but scheduling these time slots into your week beforehand may help you figure out when you can fit in self-care -- and give you something to look forward to.
Prioritize your to-do list. Looking at a long list of unfinished tasks can feel daunting to the most organized of us. Oftentimes there’s simply not enough time to do everything you’d like to. For that reason, prioritizing your top tasks for that day or week can make a world of difference. Knowing you’ve completed the most important things will give you peace of mind and make life run more smoothly.
Exercise regularly and eat healthy (at least sometimes!). Like self-care, it can be hard to find the time or justify taking a break to fit in a workout. However, similar to making time for overall self-care, finding space in your schedule for exercise will benefit you more in the long run.
It can help reduce stress, improve overall health, and energize you -- plus give you mental time away from everything going on. In a similar vein, prioritizing eating healthy foods when you’re able will not only ward off the holiday weight gain dreaded by so many, but improve your mood and energy, which can easily tank when you’re on a holiday diet of exclusively high-fat and high-sugar foods.
Remember that you don’t need to attend everything. It can be hard to say no to holiday events for various reasons. However, be assured that you absolutely do not need to go to everything, and you don’t owe anyone an explanation.
Understandably, you may still feel guilty or have FOMO, but remember that rushing from one thing to another, day after day, can be exhausting and a recipe for burnout. Similar to your to-do list, prioritize the events and obligations you absolutely must go to, and remember that it’s okay to skip others if you (and your family) aren’t up to it.
Try meditation and/or a gratitude practice. Meditating seems daunting enough ordinarily, and the holidays might not seem like the best time to pick up the habit. However, doing a meditation or gratitude practice daily, even if it’s just for one minute, can benefit you immensely by reducing stress and improving overall mood and attitude.
Try a meditation app or podcast if you like structure and have a little more time; otherwise, try taking ten slow deep breaths, noticing the sensations in your body and the thoughts entering your mind.
You may also prefer to focus on gratitude, in which case you can take a minute to deliberately reflect on the things in your life you feel grateful for -- this is scientifically proven to improve wellness and contribute to greater joy.
Embrace imperfection. Many of us head into the holiday season hoping to send out the perfect Christmas cards, buy the perfect gifts, and host the perfect gatherings -- all while looking perfect ourselves. However, while it’s great to aim high, giving yourself no wiggle room for less is a setup for failure -- not because you’re not amazing and capable, but because no one can do everything.
It’s okay to be less than perfect, and it’s okay to feel frustrated with yourself when things don’t go according to plan. But it’s also more than okay to recognize that feeling and let it go, allowing yourself to be human.
Get enough sleep. While the holidays are supposed to be a time of relaxation, many late-night events and early-morning preparations can make a good night’s rest more of an afterthought. When you are busier and more stressed than usual, it’s even more important to get your rest.
If this means embracing imperfection (as mentioned above) and turning in early or forgoing some tasks, that’s alright -- no one is jolly and merry when they’re exhausted!
Spend time outside. The holiday season is the time people typically spend the least time outside, whether it’s due to indoor gatherings, household tasks, short daylight hours, or the cold weather. However, fresh air and exposure to natural light are immensely beneficial in regulating your body’s circadian rhythms, and a daily brisk walk or even just a few minutes of fresh air can be a great way to step away and rejuvenate yourself.
You may not be able to fit all of these tips into your schedule, but even small changes can reap benefits as we approach the hectic holiday season!