The holidays can be stressful. Our shift in mindset can start as early as October when we begin to navigate through various feasts and celebrations. We often overbook ourselves and set unrealistic expectations about what can be done. We feel pressured by family and friends to travel home or attend events. All of this can culminate into a heap of tension that ultimately impacts our emotions and depletes our time and money, which are two key stress areas during the holidays.
With all these added demands, our cheery disposition can quickly shift to bah humbug. Finding peace of mind is possible if we take the right steps. Here are five ways to help ease your holiday stress.
Think differently. Focus on what matters most to you.
Ask yourself these questions — what do you love about the holidays and what means the most to you during the holiday season? Are you passionate about family gatherings and turkey traditions, do you enjoy shopping for gifts and the act of giving, or do you want to reconnect with certain people or your faith? Know what the holidays mean to you. If they don’t feed your heart and soul, redefine how you approach each one. Place your energy into what matters the most.
Plan ahead. Set realistic expectations for you and your family.
Now that you’ve made decisions about where to focus your efforts during the holidays take a moment to choose what activities lead you to the greatest joys, not the highest stresses. Write down your plans, establish a budget (and stick to it), be flexible and set attainable goals.
For example, if you want to host a big family dinner and the preparation, decorating and cooking responsibilities seem overwhelming, stop and determine if it’s too much. Delegate or ask others to contribute. Bring the family together for a decorating party or hire a house cleaner to ease the demands. Learn to let go of owning all things and tasks.
Be Aware. Understand how you feel and respond appropriately.
Be mindful of your feelings. Take notice when you feel anxious or sad. Step back and determine what’s causing these shifts in mindset. If it’s in your control, remove those things that trigger the negativity. If you can’t shake the angst and continue to downward spiral, consider reaching out to a psychologist or psychiatrist and work together to simplify and find ways to balance your life.
Eliminate the stress. Learn to take care of yourself.
There are ways to eliminate tension during the holidays. When you feel stress levels rise, take a moment of pause, breathe and relax. Ensure you are getting sufficient rest. The increased demands can wear you down and a good night’s rest can rejuvenate your mind and body. Build in time to engage yourself in activities that help you de-stress — get a massage, head to the gym, play a game with the kids or watch a movie with your best friend. Therapy is also a great way to help take care of your mental health. Many providers now offer telehealth therapy sessions which helps to save time and offer more convenience by using your phone or computer to communicate.
Celebrate. Remember to be present and enjoy the holidays.
The holidays are a time to rejoice and spend quality time with the ones you love. When you create your plan, build in time during and after, to live in the moment. It’s been a long three months, and you deserve a pat on the back. When the holidays are behind you find something you enjoy and make it happen. Relax, sit on the porch, go for a walk or take a nap. And, if you’ve avoided putting too much on your credit card, you definitely have a reason to jump for joy.
About the author
Dr. Lou’uan Gollop-Brown is a licensed clinical psychologist based in Louisiana with experience in helping patients achieve mental, emotional, and spiritual health. She has a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Purdue University, a master’s degree in counseling at Southwestern Assemblies of God University, and a doctorate in clinical psychology from Regent University. Dr. Brown has successfully treated patients suffering from anxiety disorders, depression, phobias, bipolar disorder, grief, relationship issues, ADHD, and spirituality concerns. She works with a culturally diverse population and utilizes custom tailored methods depending on the patient’s needs, including mindful behavior exercises, visualizations, and breathing techniques.