It’s that time of year you probably look forward to the most, and with that anticipation may come an extreme level of stress. It’s Holiday Season! The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas has traditionally been a time of stress for many adults who are trying to “get it all done”. According to the American Psychological Association, 44 percent of Americans believe that their stress has increased over the past five years.1 Imagine what happens over Holiday Season.
What are the facts behind this, and what steps can you take to make this Holiday Season your most enjoyable and least stressed?
Holiday stress has a particular impact on women, who take charge of many of the holiday celebrations, particularly the tasks related to preparing meals and decorating the home. Women are more likely than men to report an increase of stress during the holiday season. In addition, they have a harder time relaxing during the holidays and are more likely to fall into bad habits to manage their stress, like comfort eating.
During the holidays, stress takes on a different character than at other times of the year. Men and women alike feel a duty to make the holidays the best they can for their families. Commercialism pressures people to buy expensive gifts during this, their prime shopping season. Additionally, during the holidays people are much more likely to behave in sedentary ways like watching TV, sleeping, eating and drinking to manage their stress. Many individuals engage in comfort eating and other unhealthy behaviors to cope with their stress levels. 2
So what steps can you take to create more enjoyment and less stress during the Holiday Season?
1 Take care of yourself – I like to think of maximizing your “Big Five.”
- Your Nervous System – since your Nervous System controls everything you do, think, and function, maximizing its potential during Holiday Season is essential! Get adjusted an extra time, especially if you are away from the office or traveling. Enhance your stress adapting abilities. You’ll be glad you did.
- Exercise – if you exercise, keep doing it. Keeping your habits consistent will help with your energy levels, your ability to recover, and your attitude.
- Sleep – Keeping your sleep patterns consistent is even more important when your stress levels rise. Once again, keep everything in moderation. It’s challenging to “catch up” on your sleep. Not only do you need your energy to enjoy the best the Holidays have to offer, but you still need your energy for your job.
- Diet – Try not to deny what makes you happy during Holiday Season. It’s ok to have that cookie or cake, but do you need 5 cookies, or eat the rest of that cake? When it’s one dinner or one party after another, it’s easy to get caught up in euphoria of eat, eat, eat.
- Positive attitude – Research shows that Holiday stress causes high levels of depression as well as anxiety. Surround yourself with friends and family. If that’s not possible, surround yourself with your favorite book, your favorite music, your favorite movie. Familiarity breeds comfort.
2 Don’t break the bank
Money is one of the top reasons Americans are stressed during and even after the holiday season. Establish limits that won’t cause a financial burden on you and your family. Homemade or thoughtful, inexpensive gifts from the heart are often cherished far more than high-priced items. Long after those expensive gifts have been opened, what you gave will most likely be forgotten, but what you paid will keep coming back month after month… in your credit card bills.
3 Laughter is the best medicine
If you find yourself getting way too stressed, it’s time to take a laughter break no matter how busy you think you are. Watch a classic holiday comedy like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or Home Alone or watch one of your comedy favorites. Just as an aside, I watched one of my all time favorites, Naked Gun the other night. I had not seen it in 20 years, and laughed the entire 90 minutes. Laughter should not be reserved for stressful times during the Holidays, it should be celebrated every day!
4 Keep things in perspective
What’s the worst thing that can happen if you don’t find the perfect gift? If your dinner doesn’t turn out the way you want? If your family get-together doesn’t meet your expectations? Having the confidence that you are doing the best you can, loving the best you can, and being accountable to yourself is all you can control.
2 2006 Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, October 24, 2006