Have a Happier Holiday Season: Holiday Stress Management

posted by Angel Smith on Monday, December 4, 2023

Oh, the holiday season is upon us! It’s a time of merriment, gatherings of family and friends, a flurry of activities including shopping, baking and holiday programs … And, for many, it’s a time of stress.

Let’s look at some ways to “de-stress” the holidays and add a little more “all is calm” back into the season.

Remember, it’s OK to say “no.” You can decline the invitation to the neighborhood gathering and instead suggest you get together to celebrate the first day of spring or another activity when your schedule is a bit lighter.

Simplify your life. Rather than making six different types of Christmas cookies, make a huge batch of one recipe and have a cookie exchange with friends or family who create another recipe to exchange. Or, consider supporting your local bakery. Delegate responsibilities to other family members to help ease the number of tasks on your “to do” list.

Set realistic goals. This goes hand-in-hand with the tip above to “simplify your life.” If you choose to do all the decorating, shopping, baking, gift wrapping, etc. because you envision of “picture perfect” holiday, you’re creating your own stress. Let your teens wrap the grandparents’ gifts, or your elementary student sprinkle the cookies.

Take time for yourself. Take some time to relax, rest and reflect. Why are you celebrating the holidays? If it’s for spiritual reasons, take time for a daily reflection to refocus on why you’re celebrating. Also, physical activity is a great stress reliever. Dress weather-appropriately and head outside for a walk and fresh air.

Honor loved ones. For those who have lost a dear member of their family or circle of friends, the joy of the holidays can make the contrasting emotions of grief feel even sharper. Take time to honor that loved one. Talk with others about your feelings and share with others your fond memories of what made that person and your relationship special.

Avoid added financial stress. It can be easy to succumb to the temptations featured in the flood of holiday gift-giving advertising and the desire to fulfill every last wish on your loved one’s wish lists. However, again refocus on the reasons you’re celebrating. Carefully choosing one or two gifts to purchase or make for your family members rather than many doesn’t change how you feel about them, or how they feel about you. Doing gift exchanges rather than buying for everyone can help reduce spending. Think of what the person loves to do in their free time and perhaps you can create the gift of an experience. Make a budget and stick to it.

Respect differences and make a pact to avoid discussions of hot topics. You likely already know you and Uncle George have different political views so there’s truly no need to discuss those ideas over your pumpkin pie. Focus on what you enjoy about one another rather than your differences.

Curb indulgences. There are so many temptations around us during the holidays. If you know your weaknesses, prepare and plan for how you will avoid over-indulging. You have a sweet tooth? Make a mental commitment to balance your plate and strive to fill up on healthy options to reduce temptation. Struggle with alcohol? Commit to having a glass of water between cocktails or enlist a trusted friend to remind you of your pledge to not over-consume.

And, remember, if your stress escalates to anxiety or depression, please seek help. You may be able to calm those thoughts during a visit with a good friend; however, if not, contact a professional. Your Life Iowa provides 24/7 confidential support. The national hotline 988 is a suicide crisis line. For a wealth of local Clay County resources, check out the listing provided by Local Initiative for Networking and Collaboration (LINC): https://ccnia.org/resources/#additionalresources.

I wish you a very happy – and relaxing – holiday season!

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About The Author

Angel Smith

Angel is the Director of Clay County Public Health. She is passionate about serving the community.