While the media portrays the holiday season as the time for good food and get-togethers, most of us are far from being in the festive spirit. In fact, with all the pressure around shopping, looking good, and having to interact with a whole bunch of people, it’s common for stress levels to be at an all-time high.
Although the term “holiday stress” might seem to refer to a mild and temporary condition, studies report that there is a rise in deaths around the holiday season and a fall in their numbers almost immediately after.1 Additionally, research states that holiday stress could lead to a buildup of catecholamines, compounds that trigger the fight or flight response, hence causing fatally irregular heartbeat and death.2 So, if you’d like to be more “Zen” this holiday season, here are a few things you can do.
1. Stay Organized
While staying organized might seem easier said than done, planning ahead can save you the trouble of last minute mess ups. And, it doesn’t have to take up too much of your time.
To begin with, make quick to-do lists during your breaks. List out all the tasks that need to be done in order of importance. Assign a date to each of these tasks and make sure to spread them out over a long period of time. If you’ve got appointments to keep up with, ensure that they’re all clearly marked on one calendar and updated regularly.
Additionally, it’s important to keep your plans realistic and understand that not all of these tasks can be done as per the plan. This will help reduce the stress of not being able to keep up with your plans.3
2. Avoid Overspending
A large credit card balance at the end of the holiday season will inevitably lead to a great deal of stress. Yet, most of us feel the need to spend big during the holiday season. And, as we go through the shopping process, we tend to compartmentalize each purchase instead of accounting for our staggeringly low bank balance.
Being a big spender during the holidays thwarts all plans of saving up for more important things like vacations, college, and a new car. Hence, it’s important for you to set a budget for yourself and not exceed it.
A good way to avoid overspending is to attribute the approximate cost of travel, supplies for lunch and dinner, and gifts separately. You could also add the names of your loved ones under the “gifts” section and assign a separate amount for each of them.
Better yet, get creative and make your own cards. But, whatever you decide to do, make sure to remind yourself that impressing everyone is impossible and that you shouldn’t have to go out of your way for them. Afterall, when it comes to gifts, it really is the thought that’s gone into it that counts.4
3. Go Easy On Yourself
Having to be cheerful all the time can be stressful in itself. Adding to this is the feeling of having to go to every party you’ve been invited to. But, it’s important to reserve some of that holiday love for yourself.
Allow yourself to be honest this year, especially if you don’t particularly enjoy the holiday season. Talk to a close friend about your feelings. This will help you feel better about not being in the festive spirit like everyone else. Remember that you don’t have to go all out during this time, you could choose to sit at home and watch movies all day long as well.
In addition to this, if you’re mourning the loss of someone or have had a difficult year, feel free to talk about it with people. It might even prompt others to be honest about how they’re feeling.
Besides this, be sure not to commit to every invitation. Pick the ones that you’d like to head to or are important to you and politely decline the rest.5
4. Avoid Overeating
Although the holiday season calls for a little indulgence, you shouldn’t be overeating either. Caving in to the pressure of eating all the time during the holidays will make you feel sluggish and bloated, not to mention, guilty about all the extra calories you’ve loaded up on.
While there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy holiday food, it’s important to be smart about how you eat it. For starters, bring healthy versions of holiday food at parties. Pick sparkling water over eggnog and alcoholic beverages. If you do like drinking, make sure to stick to 2 drinks at the most.
Additionally, take small portions of everything and eat slowly to fill yourself up faster. And, make sure you stop eating when you’re full.6
Most of us tend to spend the majority of our holidays on the couch while our dumbbells gather dust. But, it’s important to keep up with your exercise routine during the holidays, so as to ensure that all those extra calories are being burned.
Additionally, exercise is a great way to beat any holiday-related stress. So, be sure to squeeze in some workouts every other day. And, if you just can’t find the time to in the midst of all the socializing, then take a walk with your loved ones or have a dance-off.7
6. Get Some “Down Time”
Even though the holidays are supposed to be a time to relax and let loose, most of us seem to have schedules that are more hectic that when we’re at work. But, if you don’t take the time out to take care of yourself, you will end up being stressed out and frustrated.
So, squeeze in some “me” time every now and then. Take a bubble bath, watch a few episodes of your favorite show, or read a book all night. If you like talking to people, spend some time playing board games with your family.8
7. Ask For Help
If you ever get overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do, delegate all of the tasks to loved ones. Ask for their help in managing things and you might just have fun while prepping for the events.
Additionally, simplify all of your tasks. Get food that’s easy to cook or call for a potluck instead. Combine your errands into one trip and adjust your expectations according to the time and resources you can devote to a task.9
Set these tips into action as soon as the holiday month is close. This will help you get rid of that sense of dread in the pit of your belly that comes with the tasks for the holiday season looming over your head.
|↑1||Kloner, Robert A., W. Kenneth Poole, and Rebecca L. Perritt. “When throughout the year is coronary death most likely to occur?.” Circulation 100, no. 15 (1999): 1630-1634.|
|↑2||Eagle, Ken. “Hypothesis Holiday sudden cardiac death: food and alcohol inhibition of SULT1A enzymes as a precipitant.” Journal of Applied Toxicology 32, no. 10 (2012): 751-755.|
|↑3||Managing Stress. The National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration.|
|↑4||Successfully Managing Your Holiday Stress. Drug Enforcement Administration.|
|↑5||Successfully Managing Your Holiday Stress. Drug Enforcement Administration.|
|↑6||Stress, Food and Exercise During the Holidays. Penn State University.|
|↑7||5 Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention.|
|↑8||Managing Stress. The National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration.|
|↑9||Successfully Managing Your Holiday Stress. Drug Enforcement Administration.|