The fall/winter holiday season is officially upon us, and the “most wonderful time of the year” can quickly turn into the most stressful time of the year. Typical daily pressures on top of things like seasonal depression, complicated relationship dynamics at family gatherings, grief over losing a loved one, or simply trying to live up to the unattainable expectations of the “perfect holiday” can create a perfect storm of intensified stressors. Then throw in the dynamics of COVID-19 and a presidential election year, breakdowns are pretty much a guarantee.
This holiday season you may have many things to take care of, but the most important one is yourself. It’s time to prepare ourselves, mentally and physically, for the next few months of wonderful, magical chaos. Below are a few steps to help keep yourself as stress free this holiday season as possible!
Welcome the chaos:
Acknowledge and accept that you will experience stress- and then don’t worry about it too much. Sure, long-term stress is unhealthy, but occasionally feeling overwhelmed isn’t the end of the world. Don’t let the idea of stress become the cause of stress.
With travel, random parties, and holiday shopping to be done, there’s a good chance your regular routine of exercise and healthy eating will be put to the test. Do the best you can to maintain your routine, and don’t let a few ‘off’ days completely derail you, it will only make it a lot harder to get back on track. When it comes to daily exercise and healthy food, the bare minimum is a lot better than nothing at all.
Exercise produces the same chemical reaction in your brain as an anti-depressant. Nature has similar effects- so combining the two when you can is even better. It’s really the best way to stay mentally and physically well any time of year, but is especially important over the holidays. Make sure to set aside time every day to move your body, even if it’s something as simple as stretching. If you have days of great weather, take advantage of that and take a walk around your neighborhood.
Instead of scrolling social media and constantly comparing what you’re doing to what others are doing, try scheduling a night or two of unplugged time. Pick up an actual book, play a board game, focus on quiet reflection, or take a long walk. Any screen-free time is time well spent!
Make a budget:
Instead of going out and buying whatever catches your eye without really thinking about it, do your best to set and stick to a budget while still leaving a some wiggle room. While the holidays tend to bring out the generosity in us, spend less money on material things and share experiences instead. Time spent together doing things will be remembered for years, but material things will eventually turn into clutter.
Spread out your errands and shopping trips so you don’t become overwhelmed with too many tasks to tackle at once, and try to go at odd times to avoid crowds of people.
Have Realistic Expectations:
It can be a lot of fun to come up with a Pinterest-worthy holiday tablescapes, but know when to ease up. When ‘festive holiday planning’ starts feeling like a chore, it’s time to reevaluate. Stay aware of your stress levels, and know that being perfect is really not worth your sanity.
Don’t feel pressured to uphold family traditions
While they might be a comforting way to remember a loved one, sometimes family traditions are no longer in line with your beliefs or lifestyle, and that’s totally OK. You’re allowed to create your own traditions and find new ways to celebrate.
Indulge without Overconsuming:
Treating yourself can make you happy, but consistently over-indulging in unhealthy food or activities around the holidays can lead to more misery than happiness. Participate in the festivities, but don’t overdo it. Instead, be mindful about how it will make you feel both mentally and physically and try stay in your happiness zone.
So, this holiday season, let’s focus a little more on getting some fresh air, your mental health, and quality time with people that you love. Your friends and family will be happy to create memories with you, so don’t worry about finding an expensive gift or creating the perfect holiday dinner to impress them!