Being a clinical social worker for over 20 years, having my own group counseling and wellness practice and providing support to individuals, adults, couples and families has allowed me to see, first hand, the stress that happens around the holidays and what works to help people de-stress. Here are 7 tips to manage holiday stress that have been successful.
When you think about what the holiday season means to you, remember past years. What worked and didn’t work? Determine what you valued the most in previous years since this is the most important of the 7 tips to manage holiday stress: was it the time with your family? Was it seeing the excitement on your child’s face when they opened a present or was it time spent in more contemplative moments, alone or with others? Whatever you (and your partner) come up with that you value most, make that your end goal. Feeling like you get what you value most out of this time of year will help keep a purpose and focus to the season and help reduce feeling overwhelmed by multiple demands and expectations.
Finding time to get everything done, whether it’s decorating for the holidays, buying gifts, or coordinating who is hosting various gatherings, can be hard! Make sure you are paying attention to your own stress level. Do you notice your heart racing more? Are you waking up in the middle of the night worrying about things? Are you more forgetful or having trouble concentrating? These are all signs of stress and it’s important to notice this and take time to de-stress through various ways: mindfulness techniques, deep breathing, yoga, exercise, letting others know you’re experiencing stress, asking for help or getting a massage. Whatever has worked for you in the past, make sure to continue doing those things when you notice stress rising.
3. Keep your routines going.
This time of year is so busy that it is easy to let go of routines, such as exercising, practicing yoga, getting to bed on time or eating breakfast. Yet, it’s also most important to keep them going. Routines are grounding, reassuring and predictable – something you need when you are feeling overwhelmed, worried about expectations of getting everything done and not sure how things are going to work out.
This time of year brings many expectations. Being realistic is important so that you are not disappointed and don’t place too much on your shoulders. Many people have trouble saying “no” to requests for their time because they don’t want to disappoint someone or hurt someone’s feelings. However, saying “yes” to something that will add more to your own stress will only end up creating more problems and issues for yourself and those around you. This time of year is not the time to add more to your plate. Keeping things simple and manageable is key. As well, people will usually respect your boundaries and desires to not do too much.
5. Understand your own triggers with issues related to family dynamics (both within your family and with family-of-origin).
So often, the issues that cause stress have to do with family relationships. It’s vital to understand what relationships make it difficult for you and decide how to handle these situations ahead of time. Being aware of your triggers is one of the most important of the 7 tips to manage holiday stress. Sometimes, it’s best to NOT attend an event or accept that it will be difficult and not hope for something more but rather to get through without an argument, tension or drama. Reaching out to a loved one to discuss this can certainly help and provide support. Counseling can also help to resolve and better understand yourself and/or the relationship. Whatever the issues, acknowledging them, rather than denying or minimizing them will provide you with the best chance of successfully navigating the situation during the holidays.
Whether you need down time for yourself or to be with your partner, it’s important to make that a priority. Some people choose to make a tradition of taking the morning of Christmas Eve off to spend time going to have breakfast. Or you could schedule a massage for yourself (or you and your partner) before the holidays begin or during the holidays. Whatever you know has been helpful in the past to calm yourself and nurture yourself, you should do those things at this time of year, especially. Using these 7 tips to manage holiday stress will help you.
Doing something you love could be something creative (such as coloring mandelas, art, dance, playing an instrument); or just reading a book or catching up on some TV show. Whatever is your way of relaxing, make sure to do these things.
Ultimately, the holiday season is one that is filled with many mixed emotions, many demands on time and multiple expectations. Using these 7 tips to manage holiday stress will help you to take care of yourself and will go a long way to helping you and your family enjoy the season. Remember, it’s once a year and worth anticipating and preparing for in order to enjoy the moments!