Holidays are a time of stress for many people. It can be outright overwhelming. The best way to deal with the stress is to have a game plan. When people get overwhelmed, they go on autopilot and they may not be aware of the specific things that trigger stress for them. The first step is to become aware of where your stress comes from. Essentially it can be pinpointed to these categories: family, finances, tradition obligation, and painful past holiday experiences.
Family stress can stem from social anxiety. It can also be that your family is full of people with big personalities and it can be hard to deal with. If the idea of seeing your family for the holidays gives you stress, don’t make it worse by adding guilt. Many people feel that they shouldn’t be stressed around their loved ones, but it’s ok if you do. The trick to family stress is to pinpoint what it is about your family that stresses you out. Are there members of the family you can tolerate better than others? Make them your focal point of the festivities. If your family gets to be too much, remember you can leave the room every so often to collect yourself if need be.
When people feel financially stressed it’s common for them to ignore the details of their financial state. (i.e. not looking at bank statements, ignoring financial obligation for pleasure, etc). As you can imagine, this makes things much worse. So again, it starts with awareness. Don’t ignore your finances. Set a budget for yourself. Perhaps go the DIY route for some gifts. You can even bake cookies and put them in a cute container as a gift for most people. You can start your holiday planning months earlier in order to save money for gifts and festivities. Remember it’s the thought that counts and there is so much information out there for you to find creative solutions.
Tradition obligation is a difficult thing to overcome. Some people just do not enjoy the holidays like others do, and yet there is a lot of pressure to uphold a lot of tradition this time of year. It could be going to church on Christmas eve to please your parents, or watching holiday movies with the family, or decorating the tree. There are a lot of traditions and if they cause you stress you can find a happy medium. Find the traditions you don’t mind and participate in those while excusing yourself from the other traditions. Your family and friends may not fully understand but they will learn to respect that side of yourself. You will get a lot more joy out of the season if you don’t feel like you’re doing things because you have to.
Finally, the holidays can be hard for some people who are in a period of grieving. Whether they lost someone around the holiday season or not, it’s a time for family and it can be a lonely feeling not to have that person there to celebrate with you. Allow yourself to feel your grief and to miss them. Don’t feel like you have to put on a cheery face because it’s “the happiest time of year”. Allowing yourself to feel that loss and to feel the support you have in dealing with that loss is a very healing thing. Besides, honesty about grief teaches people around you how to process their own grief (especially children who may be feeling the same way). It helps many people to set up some kind of memorial for their loved one, like lighting a candle for them, setting a place for them at the dinner table, making a special trip to one of their favorite places, etc.
Some general tips for dealing with holiday stress are starting a yoga or meditation practice, get out in nature (it’s cold but there are still some wonderful places to visit in the outdoors this time of year), or start a gratitude journal. Focusing on the things you love and connecting to your mind and body are wonderful stress relief tools. If you still aren’t seeing a positive change in your stress levels, you might consider going to a massage therapist or seeing a hypnotherapist. Hypnotherapy works with your subconscious ticks to help you relieve some negative associations to make positive changes in your life and has shown to work wonders with letting go of stress.