10 Things You Can Do So The Holidays Don’t Stress You Out
Eva Taylor Grant
The most festive season can also be the most stressful. Luckily, this is a pretty universal feeling, so there are some tried-and-true ways to stay calm.
While gearing up for some of the happiest days of the year, major stressors like commercialism and personal finances take the front seat. On top of this, all sorts of family problems surface when everyone gets together. Managing all these difficult problems, though, doesn’t have to be so daunting.
Here is MAED’s expert-approved list of stress management tips for the holidays. From better ways to manage your schedule to moment-of anxiety relief, these changes should be able to make things just a little bit easier in the upcoming months.
Pick Your Battles
Accepting that a lot of this is beyond your control can actually be quite empowering. “Whether you call the old bit of advice ‘The Serenity Prayer’ or just a good bit of wisdom, try to focus your worry and energy on things you can change,” Dr. Carson, MD PhD assistant professor of neurology at Vanderbilt and advisor to Remedy Review, tells MAED. Reminding yourself that you don’t have the power to fix everything may take some of the pressure off.
Have A Recovery Plan
Worrying about an impending person or thing that you know will wind you up? Plan for it. “I suggest you have a recovery plan,” Nancy Jane Smith, MSEd, a licensed professional counselor, mental health advocate, and author of The Happier Approach, tells MAED. “For example, if you’ll be spending a few days too long with your crazy mother-in-law, decide in advance how you’re going to counter that.” Whether it’s a spa day, Netflix binge, or your favorite meal, do something to bounce back and feel yourself again.
Take 30 Minutes A Day For Solitude
When surrounded by people, no matter how extroverted you are, alone time is still crucial for keeping the stress at bay. “It’s important to carve out time to be by yourself. Even as little as 30 minutes per day can have tremendous benefits,” Dr. Alok Trivedi, a human behavior and psychological performance expert and founder of the Aligned Performance Institute tells MAED. Whether this means waking up earlier, or taking a longer shower, you deserve that time.
Communicate With Friends & Family
You don’t need to bear the burden of your stress alone. So tell your loved ones when something is bothering you. “Although the holidays are a stressful time, it’s people’s inability to communicate and [people’s] assumptions that gets them into trouble,” Dr. Trivedi says. When in doubt, talk it out.
Know Your Limits
Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean you’ll magically be able to handle more than usual. “Be realistic in terms of what you can and can’t handle,” Dr. Trivedi says. “It’s nice to want to make yourself available to everything and everyone, but it’s also unrealistic and going to take a toll on your mental and physical health.” This is another important way to prioritize yourself.
Financial stress is serious during the holidays. Plan for that. “Create a budget for all holiday expenses including gifts, events or activities out,” LMFT and life coach Emily Cosgrove tells MAED. “Think of how much you want to spend on each person and activity.” Having a plan will give you more time, and help reduce the feelings of being in over your head.
If you know you can handle so much, only do that much. “Another way to reduce stress is to set boundaries around your time in advance,” Smith says. “For example, if spending a full evening at your neighbor’s holiday party creates stress for you, then decide to only stay for an hour before going home.” Going back to be with family is probably what you want most, anyways.
Have A Plan For Your S.O. To Help
“He or she can help you execute a plan you’ve established in advance: ‘Babe, weren’t you going to take a walk? I can take over in the kitchen.’” No one else has to know, and you can return the favor for them when they inevitably get stressed out too.
Put Self-Care On The Schedule
Beyond scheduling me-time and leaving parties when you need to, it’s important to actually put your own needs on the calendar. “What does your schedule look like?” Cosgrove asks. “ […] Print out a calendar for the month and mark down events, shopping days, decorating days, even self-care days.” And if your calendar ever gets to be too much, you can always cancel.
Despite careful planning, you’ll still probably run into moments of stress. That’s ok too. Just breathe it out. “Never underestimate the importance of breathing,” Dr. Carson says. “If you start to feel yourself getting overwhelmed, take a minute and focus on your breathing.” There are a ton of breathing techniques for anxiety online, and they’re all great to have in your back pocket during the holidays.
Eva Taylor Grant is a writer, cancer survivor and advocate. Her work has appeared in Bustle, Girlboss, and MAED, among others.