The holiday season often is filled with joy and celebration, but also can cause stress, distraction and anxiety. Our days are packed with shopping, gatherings, travel and celebration, which can be tough to juggle when you still have to handle your regular workload. The first things to fall off our calendars and task lists are self-care activities, which only adds to the difficulty.
How much of your stress is caused by something ‘unexpected’, such as burned food, delayed gifts, holiday traffic, or family conflict? Many of us seem to start the holiday season with an unrealistic expectation that things will go perfectly, and end up experiencing considerable stress and frustration when things don’t work out as planned.
Our stress is generated by our reaction to the situation, so starting with an expectation of imperfection allows you to plan ahead and feel a little less overwhelmed when things happen. When we anticipate traffic, weather delays, broken packages and tired kids, we can prepare ourselves in advance and relax a bit knowing the challenges are inevitable and we have a plan…even if that plan is to just laugh and move on.
When the calendar becomes packed with holiday events and tasks, one of the first things we sacrifice is our own wellbeing. Late evenings of shopping and celebrating lead to less sleep and skipped workouts. We also risk starting the year with a significant strain on our financial wellbeing as what is meant to be joyful spending turns into piles of expenses that could take months to pay off. Finding simple ways to add a few minutes of sleep or movement will help keep your energy and mood festive.
The biggest impact to wellbeing for most people involves their eating habits. Although we know the special treats we consume during the holidays will lead to feeling sluggish and exhausted, it can be tough to resist. Portion size, as well as mindfulness about what we are consuming, are so critical during this time of year. How often do you lose track of what you’ve eaten during a gathering, or how many treats you’ve sampled? Eating a healthy meal before heading to a party, and bringing a healthier ’treat’ with you ensures you will have options that allow you to celebrate and still feel great.
Invest in Experiences
Do you remember all of the gifts you received over the years? Chances are you have a few special material things that stand out, but most of your joy has come from experiences. The time together as a family, the traditions that make the holiday special, the thoughtful gesture from a friend. We invest so much time searching for the perfect gift, yet what brings us the most joy are the memories we create.
The holidays are filled with so many ways to spend money, which often leads to financial dread once the season is over. When we reduce the monetary expense and focus instead on kind words and gestures, inexpensive gifts that show you care, and experiences we can share with the special people in our lives, we create memories that are far more valuable. Giving the ‘gift’ of volunteering together or shopping together for gifts to donate to a pet shelter can create the festive spirit without the extra financial stress.
As easy as it seems, recognizing the onset of stress and tension provides the ability to stop, breathe, and be grateful. It is easy to underestimate the impact of gratitude on our stress and mental wellbeing, especially when you are overwhelmed. The simple act of expressing gratitude can help melt away some of the tension and frustration and bring the joy back to your holiday season.
Author: Becky Jacobs, Chief Engagement Officer