It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but also a time when stress levels skyrocket. We’ve put together some tips to stop the stress and make the period more enjoyable.
Although Christmas is known as “the season to be merry”, it can be a major source of stress, pressure and conflict for many of us. Some people can feel overwhelmed by the excesses, expectations and exchanges and become depressed during the holidays. Lack of time and money and the pressure of gifts can often contribute to stress during the holiday season.
Most of us are aware of the negative effects stress can have on our bodies. It can impact our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and, if left unchecked, can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. In fact, research has shown that there is an increase in heart attacks and heart-related deaths during the holiday season, which may be due to stress, heavy alcohol consumption, a fatty diet or all three. It is therefore of the utmost importance to manage the stress of the holidays, pronto.
With cooking, decorating, visits and gifts, the holiday season can feel more like a deadline than a vacation. So try these Christmas stress strategies to ease the pressure and help melt the stress away.
1. Limit expenses
Money problems are one of the main causes of stress during the holiday season. Gift shopping, entertainment, and travel can all add financial burden to even the most savvy shoppers. However, here are some steps you can take to limit financial stress.
Set a budget. First, make sure all your usual expenses are accounted for so you don’t miss paying bills like rent. Plan for any other expenses while on vacation, including parties you’re hosting or trips to visit friends and family. Once these expenses are subtracted from your budget, you can calculate how much you can spend on gifts. Being organized and realistic about your budget will ensure that you don’t overspend.
Take one financial decision at a time. Be sure to space out spending decisions. Trying to make too many decisions at once can be overwhelming, which can lead to a drain on your willpower and an increased risk of overspending.
Avoid temptations. It’s often impossible to completely avoid stores and malls during the holiday season, but limiting the time you spend in these places can also help you cut spending. Manage your impulse spending by taking only the cash you can afford on shopping trips and leaving all credit and debit cards at home.
Know how you handle stress-related money issues. Sometimes during tough economic times, people turn to tobacco, alcohol, gambling, or overeating to try to relieve their stress. These behaviors can lead to arguments and conflicts between partners and families. Be aware and seek help from a medical professional if you find that these behaviors are causing you problems.
Keep in mind what is important. Overspending can overshadow the true Christmas feeling. If your spending list exceeds your monthly budget, keep in mind that your relationships with friends and family are more important than material items.
2. Manage your expectations
Everyone has an idea in their head of the perfect vacation, but when the reality doesn’t match the vision, stress can set in. Try managing your expectations with these simple tips.
Despite your grand plans, no event ever goes off without a hitch, and that goes for the holiday season, too. Rather than building up stress along the way from mishaps that may arise, consider these miniature calamities as an opportunity to exercise your flexibility and resilience. Going to dinner 30 minutes late, spilling food on your party outfit, or having a poorly pruned tree won’t ruin your day. On the contrary, they will create great memories that you can remember for years to come.
Help children be realistic
As children grow older and begin to realize what they want and what their friends have, parents can feel pressured to meet their expectations and give them the perfect gifts.
Help your child make a wish list of gifts. Make sure he knows he won’t get everything on the list, and point out anything that isn’t acceptable or achievable.
Remind your child that Christmas is about being together, not a checklist of gifts. Planning fun activities that encourage everyone to come together and have fun can create excitement.
Take some time for yourself
Carrying the world on your shoulders and trying to do everything alone during the holidays can take a toll on your mind and body. Ask for help with some of the tasks on your list and get some rest. Do something relaxing to recharge your batteries, like reading a book, watching a Christmas movie, listening to music, or getting a massage.
3. Avoid excess
It’s the season of indulgence, and whether it’s a Christmas party or a family dinner, we’re surrounded by extravagant food and booze. Although many of us only gain an extra pound during the holiday season, that extra pound can accumulate over the years to come and contribute to obesity later in life. Excessive stress increases appetite and cravings for sugary and fatty foods, and chronic alcohol consumption can further aggravate stress by increasing levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
How to maintain healthy eating habits during the holidays to avoid weight gain and stress:
Adopt a healthy diet during the day. Eat protein-rich snacks, such as yogurt or an apple, so you don’t feel too hungry at dinner time.
Make simple food swaps. Eat wholemeal bread instead of white bread, and brown rice instead of white rice, to feel full longer.
Pay attention to treats. Enjoy seasonal treats, but try to control portion sizes.
If you find yourself overdoing it, take a step back. One day of excess will not lead to significant weight gain, as long as you get back on track by choosing healthy foods and exercising the next day.
4. Take a walk
The antidote to holiday stress could be as simple as walking around the block. Research shows that physical activity reorganizes the brain in such a way that it reduces its reaction to stress.
Regular exercise can help decrease tension and boost and stabilize mood. Additionally, exercising produces endorphins, natural painkilling chemicals that are released in the brain, which improve your ability to sleep and reduce stress. Research also shows that if you convince the rest of the family to get off the couch and join you on the walk, your stress levels will be reduced even further. Researchers found that group training reduced stress levels by 26% and improved physical, mental and emotional quality of life.
5. Have fun
While you’re decorating the tree or baking birthday cookies, forget all the tasks left on your to-do list and give yourself permission to have fun. Laughter goes a long way in fighting stress and might be just what the doctor ordered. Laughter lightens your mood, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and also releases endorphins. Laughter also stimulates blood circulation, helps muscles relax and alleviates the physical symptoms associated with stress. Whether your laughter is fueled by moments from your favorite movie, table jokes, a holiday prank or an afternoon of fun activities, be sure to include holiday humor, laughs and giggles. . Simply looking forward to a funny event increases relaxation hormones and decreases stress hormones.
Finding positive and healthy ways to deal with stress could reduce many of the adverse health consequences associated with it. Finding the stress-busting techniques that work best for you can help you have a stress-free Christmas.