Tips to Beat Holiday Stress (and enjoy the holidays more!)

holiday stress buster

As you read this, I imagine you are creating a to-do list of all the things you need to do in the coming weeks. The shopping, baking, cards, decorating, wrapping, and beyond. Your head is likely spinning from all the things you feel like you have to get done. There is no doubt this is a stressful time of year. 

But before that overwhelming feeling creeps up and sends you into panic mode, put things into perspective. What are the holidays really about? Being together, spreading joy, helping others. They don’t have to be all about buying the perfect gifts, baking four different kinds of cookies, or elaborate decorations.

This year consider taking steps to reduce holiday stress and do more of what feels good. 

Turn Negative Into Positive

This time of year can unleash a whole slew of emotions. Reminders of lost loved ones, financial issues, family struggles, and mental health all come to the forefront. It can be easy to get sucked into a spiral of negative thoughts. Rather than focusing on all the negatives in your life, turn it around and make the effort to help others. 

It is two-fold. There are so many people in need this time of the year (and year-round). And, helping others makes us feel better. Through volunteering, cooking a meal, cleaning a house, or baking cookies for others in need you can help yourself while also helping others. When we see the joy of others achieved through our efforts it helps to lift us up and feel good about the ways we are spending our days. 

It is hard to get through the holiday season when you focus on all the things that have gone wrong throughout the year, or all the things that are missing. When you turn that negative energy into something positive it can help you get through this otherwise hard time more easily, and might also give you a reason to smile. 

If you are wondering where to start, here are some websites to help:

National Coalition for the Homeless: https://nationalhomeless.org

Volunteer Match: https://www.volunteermatch.org

Create The Good: http://createthegood.org

Practice Self-Care

With all that you have to do it is easy to forget about yourself. Make sure you take the time to care for yourself. Take the time to do the things that make you happy—read a book, take a bubble bath, get a massage, take a nap, etc. Self-care is crucial to staying healthy and your family needs you more than the perfect cookie or gift. 

Get enough sleep and stick to healthy eating habits. Letting everything go for the month will likely make you feel pretty crummy. Don’t overdo it with the sweets and fancy cocktails. Continue with your normal exercise routine, being active is so good for your mental and physical health. And, relax. Spend time with family. Cuddle on the couch with your children or your partner. Those are the moments that really matter. 

Be Reasonable 

It is impossible for you to be everything to everyone. If you are feeling overwhelmed, turn things down. You don’t have to go to every party or cook every meal. Consider getting things catered or purchasing a side dish rather than cooking it yourself. Or, skip holiday cards this year. They will just be thrown out in a few weeks, anyway. 

Set a budget for yourself that you can stick to. That way you can limit the anxiety of seeing your bills pile up and wondering how on earth you are going to pay them. Opt to do a secret Santa instead of buying gifts for everyone in the family. Or, forget gifts altogether and do something fun instead—go to a show, plan a trip, or help a family in need. 

Focus on Gratitude & Perspective

There really is so much to be thankful for, no matter who you are—a breath of fresh air, a warm blanket, a happy child, a clean kitchen, the sun shining, there is always something. Shifting your thought process to focus more on the things you are thankful for can do wonders for your mental health. Gratitude journals are helpful, take a few minutes at the end of each day to write down a few things to be thankful for about the day. Shift your perspective to the good in your life and your mood and energy will follow. 

This is not to minimize that there may be very stressful or difficult things going on in your life, but trying to shift your focus can help to give you perspective on those stressors. If you are trying but are having a hard time finding perspective or gratitude then this may be a signal that it is time to talk to a therapist or professional about your concerns.

This time of year can be what you make it. It can be joyous, but it can also be full of sadness and anxiety. Accept that it is ok to get help if you need it.

The psychologists at Wellness Psychological Services are uniquely and expertly specialized in helping you create a healthier environment for yourself. We welcome the chance to discuss an individualized plan to meet your needs. Contact us for an appointment anytime.  ​

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