Learn How to Manage Holiday Stress and Anxiety

 

It’s that time of year, and we thought we would help you learn how to manage holiday stress and anxiety. If you’re like us, you’ve got a love-hate relationship with the holidays. Along with the nostalgic joy of music, food, and family gatherings comes the stress of dealing with it all.

For some people, handling the holidays can be tough. Even though we know what will set us or others off, we think things will be different every year, and we put ourselves in situations filled with anxiety triggers.

 

Who gets a present? Who doesn’t? How many people do you invite? Which parties should you go to? Will anyone show up at yours? Have you overcommitted again?

 

All of these questions are enough to make us wish the holidays never existed. There is, however, hope. Here are some tips on handling the holiday season. 

 

Take a Personal Inventory

Holiday Stress

Before you get stressed out this holiday season, sit down and take a personal inventory. Some years, you’re up for everything. Maybe it’s been too long since you’ve seen your family, or you’re flush with cash, so you want to buy everyone presents. Other years, though, you need to be low key.

You need to know how much you can handle before you start filling out your schedule. Avoid holiday burnout by pacing out your activities. Don’t overcommit yourself. If you spend all your time and emotional energy ticking off obligations, you won’t be able to enjoy the parties and activities that really mean something.

 

Set Clear Boundaries

Why do you keep spending two weeks with your parents when you know one week is all you can take? For some reason, maybe a sense of duty or being too idealistic, we keep putting ourselves in situations we know are fraught with anxiety and stress.

 

Before the holiday season comes, set clear boundaries for yourself and others. Let your parents know you’ll be coming for only a week this year. Finally, say no to the parties you don’t want to go to and fight for that time off at work so you’re not responding to emails on New Year’s Eve.

Make time for yourself so you can handle the stress and anxiety that comes with the holidays. Do something that makes you feel good. 

 

The Gift Exchange

 

Holiday Stress

Some people are just better than others at giving gifts. It’s easy to feel like a total failure if it’s something you struggle with, particularly if your partner excels at it. 

Giving family gifts is also very tricky. Why should you have to buy gifts for a million people just because your brothers and sisters decided to have a ton of kids?

Try a proactive approach and set a money limit on gifts with the family. Set expectations so you’re not stressed and scrambling right up to the holidays. If you’ve got a big family, think about a gift exchange where you buy for just one sibling and their family each year.

Having to buy fewer gifts will mean less holiday stress and you’ll have more time to spend with people you love rather than running around in stores.

 

Don’t Party Hard, Party with a Purpose!

Holiday Stress

We’ve all had years where we cut super loose and went a bit crazy over the holidays. Going to parties is awesome. We see our friends, celebrate with colleagues, and blow off some steam.

While there’s certainly an argument for partying hard over the holidays, remember that you’re headed into the new year as well. You don’t want to go into 2020 with an extended hangover from weeks of partying too much. 

Remember that the holidays are supposed to refresh you as well. You want to start the new year feeling great, healthy and ready for what comes.

 

When it comes to parties, go to the ones with people you enjoy the most. Leave behind the random invites and banquets so you can spend a bit more time reflecting on what you want for the new year.

 

Manage Stress as It Comes, Not When You Can’t Handle It Anymore

Holiday stress tends to fester and build under the surface. There’s a reason there are a million movies about family fights and holiday chaos. People can handle a lot of stress before they finally explode.

When stress bubbles to the surface and detonates all over you and your relatives, it’s really not about whether the stuffing is moist enough. It’s just the final straw and a way to release anger without addressing what’s going on.

This holiday season, do your best to take on stress as it comes. Don’t take a perceived slight and let it bother you for days. Address it so you can have peace of mind. Ultimately, if you can’t have frank conversations with your relatives for your own mental health, then you probably should limit the time you spend around them.

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Holiday Stress

In a 2005 article titled “Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview and Update”[1], Dr. Roecklien and Dr. Rohan reported that between 10 and 20 percent of recurrent depression happened on a seasonal schedule, mostly during fall and winter months.

What that tells us is that it’s no accident to feel a bit down around the holidays. It’s not just because you didn’t get the present you wanted. Be aware that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is real. If you find yourself stressed or depressed every year during the holidays, talk to a therapist and see if they can help. There may be treatments that can help you enjoy the holidays more.

 

Make Yourself a Priority

The best thing you can do for the holidays to fight off and handle stress and anxiety is to remember what you need to feel happy.

Find your stress relief – exercising, volunteering, reading, massage, or maybe even organizing your closet. 

What do the holidays mean to you? Answer that question and then do what it takes to make your holiday season successful. It may take people time to adjust to your new reality, but in the end, you will be better off for it.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004726/

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