Holiday stress can be what helps you stay on track during the holiday season, but if it sticks around too long and is consistently overwhelming to your nervous system, it can make you feel anxious, irritable, and even depressed.
The good news is there are things you can do to help reduce your stress at this time of year.
Here are 5 useful tips to help you keep your stress at a healthy level during the holiday period
1. Set boundaries
Family members and friends will have different viewpoints than your own. It may be tempting to finally let your mother-in-law know how you feel about her views on childrearing, but the holidays might not be the best time for hot-button topics.
Setting personal boundaries can help you avoid tension. Identify the topics you want to stay clear of and be ready with a phrase that changes the topic quickly if a hot topic comes up. It’s also okay to take a trip to the bathroom or refill your plate if you need to excuse yourself from a tricky conversation. If you are traveling to see family, boundaries can look like deciding where you will stay and for how long.
2. Be realistic
You are only one person, and you can only do so much. Be realistic with how much you can handle this season. Let go of expectations and ideas that the mind creates about how things should look or happen during the holidays. If real life doesn’t go as we had hoped and imagined, we often feel disappointed or upset. Meditation can help your mind to stay in the present moment and focus on life as it unfolds, rather than attempting to exert control over outcomes.
3. Take a break
Don’t forget about your own needs. Take a nap, go for a short walk, read a book or watch a funny movie. Laughing relaxes the whole body and can relieve physical tension and stress. Research shows that just 2 minutes of quiet time can boost mental wellbeing. During your quiet time you might want to meditate using a meditation app. People report a significant reduction in stress when they practice meditation.
4. Make room for all types of feelings
Some people think that the goal of life is to be consistently happy, especially during the holiday season. The fact is, most people experience sadness, grief, loneliness, stress, and anxiety at some point at this time of year, and all people experience these emotions sometime in their lifetime. Don’t judge yourself if these emotions arise. Learn to accept them and make room for them, however uncomfortable they are. Again, meditation can be helpful for this. It helps us to observe our thoughts rather than to be caught up in them, therefore making unhelpful thoughts that cause distress, less powerful.
5. Keep your regular routines
Routines help improve mental and physical well-being. Practice sleep hygiene by going to bed and waking up at the same time each night. If you have an exercise routine, stick to it. If you go to therapy, continue going, or even consider booking in additional sessions. During this time of year, therapy can be a safe place for you to talk about your feelings so that they don’t come out in an explosion because you’ve tried to suppress them.
At Us Therapy we are here to help make your holiday season less stressful and maybe even more enjoyable than what you ever thought possible. Happy holidays from the team at Us Therapy.
Written and Reviewed by Karen Hurworth, Counsellor working with children, adolescents and adults, in December 2023.