Although the holiday season is often heralded as “the most wonderful time of the year,” there are many reasons why it may not feel festive. You may be overwhelmed by a messy social calendar, work deadlines, financial worries, reflections on the death of a loved one, or dreary winter days. And, in some cases, this could be a combination of these.
As such, it’s not a huge surprise for the holidays that many of us have declared this to be the most stressful time of the year. According to the American Psychological Association, 38% of people reported increased stress during the Christmas season. This can result in symptoms like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse if left unaddressed.
Additionally, 64% of people with mental illness said their symptoms worsened during the holidays, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Despite this, there are ways to protect ourselves and perhaps reduce some of our Christmas stress. And hopefully, these 12 tactics can make your days happy and bright.
1. Have a perfectly imperfect holiday season.
Maybe if Clark Griswold hadn’t had such high expectations, he wouldn’t have had a breakdown in Christmas holidays. But hey, it happens to the best of us at this time of year ”.
“As we prepare for the holidays, we often set the bar unbelievably high for ourselves and then become upset when our celebrations don’t live up to expectations,” says Neda Gould, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and director of the Johns Hopkins Mindfulness Program at the Johns Hopkins University School.
Your suggestion? Keep in mind that not everything will go according to plan. “It’s okay if it’s not perfect. The blemish is healthy and normal.. For some of us, it may just take a little practice, ”adds Gould.
How else can perfectionism be stopped in its tracks? Here are some proven strategies to explore;
- Let go of control and surrender in the moment.
- Set SMART goals that you can achieve.
- Invite others to receive comments.
- Stop comparing yourself to others.
- Use “hypothesis tests” to get him out of his comfort zone.
- Stop ruminating.
- Find a healthy balance between the good and the perfect.
- Focus on the process and enjoy it.
2. I dream of a white Christmas.
I’m not literally talking about snowfall this Christmas season, even though it does make the holidays a bit more special. Rather, this is a popular calendar tip that only the most productive people use. But what exactly is white space?
Blank spaces on your calendar refer to blocks of time where nothing is scheduled. “Use that reserve time to think big, catch up on the latest industry news, get out of that pile of unread emails, or just take a walk,” wrote Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn. Additionally, you can use this time to meditate, reflect on the year, or prepare for a meeting. You can also use it for unexpected and last minute tasks.
By adding space to your calendar for yourself, you can take your day back from to-do lists, emails, phone calls, and vacation obligations.
3. Run, Rudolph, run.
While physical activity is important throughout the year, it is especially so during the holidays. After all, it is one of the most effective ways to relieve stress.
“Combine or alternate aerobics with strength training, stretching, flexibility, and agility exercises to increase endorphins,” suggests Kathleen Hall, Ph.D., founder and CEO of The Mindful Living Network and The Stress Institute.
You can make this even more beneficial if you make this a social activity as well. The researchers found that people who exercised in groups had better mental, physical and emotional health than those who exercised alone. And, considering that many of us feel lonely or isolated at this time of year, it’s a smart way to connect and interact with others.
4. Make a vacation budget and double-check it.
Gifts, Christmas parties, decorations and travel. Obviously, all of these take a toll on your finances. But, worrying about money right now is enough to make anyone yell “Bah! Faker!”
The solution? Create a vacation budget. And, most importantly, stick with it.
- Keep your budget concise, simple, and practical so it’s easy to track.
- If you plan to travel, look for more affordable options, like driving instead of flying.
- Find a friend or family member to hold others accountable.
- Go back and review what you spent last year to identify what can be cut back.
- Make sure you understand the terms of the offer to buy now, pay later before using it.
- Download a budget or banking app so you can track your spending right from your phone.
5. Make “Good to do for me” and “I need to do for you” lists.
“Writing down everything you have to do on vacation will help you realize how doable your tasks are,” says Connie Bennett MSJ, CHHC, CPC for Psychology Today. “Be realistic about what you put on your lists.” Then tackle one item on the list at a time.
“For example, after shopping for gifts for your mom or partner, take time to exercise too,” adds Bennett. “By switching between lists, you won’t feel deprived, because you are being good to yourself.”
A better idea? Create an “Absolute Yes.”
As Cheryl Richardson explains in her book, Take Time For Your Life: A 7-Step Program To Create The Life You WantBy being clear about your priorities, you will be inspired to use your time more efficiently. “When you practice extreme self-care and put yourself first, you are fully available to others without resentment or anger,” he writes.
6. Go sing Christmas carols.
It has been found that if you want to get more done, you need to listen to music throughout the day. However, several studies have also found that blasting your favorite holiday tunes is critical to a healthier life.
Researchers have found that choir singers feel happier and less anxious and depressed about life. They are also more optimistic in general about what is to come.
In addition, singing can forge bonds and improve immunity. In addition, singing slows our heart rate and improves our lung function, as we tend to breathe more and more slowly.
7. Smell the Christmas scents.
Christmas trees or menorah candles can evoke pleasant childhood memories due to their distinctive scent. A Japanese study also found that breathing in the scent of pine trees can reduce depression and stress.
In short, if you’re feeling stressed, focus on your favorite Christmas scents. It’s a simple and effective way to make you feel more comfortable.
8. Rethink traditions.
Changing your vacation routine can be difficult, especially if it’s something you’ve always done. But it is worth re-examining them from time to time by asking;
- Do they still fit your lifestyle?
- Do you and everyone in your household still enjoy them?
- Are they causing you additional stress?
Let’s say it is very difficult to travel home because you have two small children. You can start a new family tradition at home or invite your near and dear ones to celebrate.
9. Be demanding and vocal.
While this is the perfect time to give back, you don’t want to try too hard either. “Scale it down and what you plan to do and what you are responsible for,” says Gail Saltz, MD, psychologist and host of the Personology podcast. Health, Ask for help with what needs to be done, realign expectations to something more reasonable.
Also, if you have a full plate or a messy schedule, use delegation or outsourcing to your advantage. However, for this to be successful, be sure to follow the 6 C’s of delegation;
- Competence. Match the right person to the task.
- Clarity. A lineup of “what looks good,” a timeline, and “the method of measuring success” are minimal.
- Confidence. You can do this by granting autonomy, granting flexible hours, and celebrating milestones.
- Commitment. To get others to commit, make sure they understand your role.
- Control. Sign up and offer constructive feedback.
- Continuity. It summarizes all the daily tasks, as well as the repetitive processes.
Also, if you have the means, you may want to out any task that seems like a chore to you. For example, if you don’t have time to clean your house before your guests arrive, hire a cleaning service to do it for you.
10. Learn something new.
Sometimes the best way to fight stress is to distract yourself. In this case, to stop thinking about the stress of the holidays, turn your attention to something you enjoy. For example, if you like to draw, sign up for a virtual or face-to-face class.
Or, you could get ahead of your New Year’s goals. For example, if you’ve struggled with time management in the past, you might start exploring ways to improve this skill. As a result, you will be able to start the New Year with a bang.
There may be a greater intensity in family, work and partner interactions during the holidays. As such, this can make it challenging to focus on work when you’ve just had a disagreement with a family member or friend.
It is not an easy task, but you should let that friction pass as much as possible.
Remember, don’t take anything people say personally at this time of year, as people are just as sensitive and stressed as you are. Also, remember that you can deal with anything on your mind later, when everyone has calmed down and is more level-headed.
12. Prioritize personal care.
It may seem like you are being a grinch. But it is imperative that you take care of yourself this time of year. Remember, you are your most important asset.
“We need to take care of ourselves above all else,” writes Choncé Maddox in a previous Calendar article. “Make sure you take time each day to take care of yourself.”
You can choose to meditate, pray, read, journal, or even focus on a non-work related goal. Also, prioritize exciting projects.
“Self-care focuses on physical and mental health, adds Choncé. “We need to take our health into account and we shouldn’t overwork.”
Image credit: Alexandr Podvalny; Pexels; Thanks!
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