The holiday season is a time for family, festivity, and feelings of warmth and joy. While all of this is true, the reality is that the holidays create a lot of stress for many people. A recent Healthline survey reported that 44 percent of people feel stress during the holidays – with 18 percent labeling themselves as “very stressed” – and, according to the American Psychological Association, 38 percent of people say that the holiday season increases their feelings of stress. Holiday stress may be inevitable, but how it is managed is up to the individual.
Read on to learn more about the common roots of holiday stress and tips for managing it!
The Top Causes of Holiday Stress
Holiday shopping. Decorating, wrapping, and cooking. Entertaining family or managing holiday travel. The holiday season is a stress minefield, with many individuals struggling to juggle the seasonal burden. In a long list of holiday stressors, the following themes seem to repeat themselves:
Overindulgence: Between those decadent holiday treats and Black Friday sales, the holiday season is riddled with temptations that pack a one-two punch for the body and the wallet. Many people experience a great deal of stress around finances and holiday spending. Those effects can last long after the holiday season is over. Likewise, with food at the center of so many holiday traditions and festivities, it’s easy to go overboard on sweets and alcohol. When a person’s normal diet is disrupted to this extent, it’s taxing on the digestive system resulting in heartburn, lack of sleep, and other unpleasant symptoms.
Seasonal Affective Disorder: Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a category of depression that is related to changes in the season. Largely, SAD begins and ends around the same time each year and is typically brought on by the time change and weather changes that accompany the fall and winter. Darker days and less sunlight create a Vitamin D deficiency. This can lead to an overproduction of melatonin, leading to sluggishness. Common SAD symptoms include low energy, oversleeping, and difficulty concentrating.
Overcommitting: Not all types of stress are negative. “Eustress” is the term that researchers use for the undercurrent of energizing stress that pushes us to be productive and gives us the drive to enjoy and pursue what we like. That being said, it’s an accepted fact that too much of a good thing can have a negative impact. The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is exciting, which leads many people to pack their schedules with activities. Unfortunately, overcommitting ourselves without building in adequate time to rest can leave us feeling frazzled rather than fulfilled.
The Toll of Holiday Stress
Holiday stress can affect people of any age, including kids. The physical and mental impact of stress can turn the holiday season from a joyous occasion to a total slog. The remarkable toll that stress takes on our overall wellbeing is a cause for great concern and this is especially important as individuals face the demands of the season.
Stress creates feelings of sadness, anxiety, and irritability in people. It saps the enjoyment out of festive activities and negatively impacts the individual, as well as their loved ones. Physically, the impact of holiday stress is even more distressing. Headaches, body aches, and insomnia are all common symptoms of seasonal stress that can be detrimental to a happy holiday.
Comfort and joy are at the center of the holidays. It’s a time to enjoy the best of life, to relax, and to share special moments with loved ones. Don’t let holiday stress put a damper on the holiday spirit.
Tips for Managing Stress During the Holidays
Managing holiday stress can be a matter of simple, practical strategies. What’s most important is to approach the holiday season from a place of self-care and preparedness. It’s hard to pause in the middle of the holiday chaos and reassess, so building in strategies for stress management early on is crucial. Here are some of our favorite tips for managing stress during the holidays:
Manage expectations: Not every detail has to be perfect. Not every tradition must be accounted for. During the holiday season, internal and external expectations are high and many find themselves balancing their own desires with the expectations of loved ones. Take a moment to recalibrate and set realistic goals and healthy boundaries. As much as we would all love to squeeze in every opportunity for holiday fun, the reality is that doing too much can detract from our enjoyment. Be intentional with your planning and commitments and prioritize self-care.
Consume mindfully: As mentioned before, the temptation to indulge with a sweet treat, a cocktail, or a holiday shopping find is strong during the festive season. The difference between enjoyment and overindulgence is mindfulness. Set a budget for annual holiday shopping and be proactive in choosing gifts. There are many great sales during the holidays that can be taken advantage of. As far as enjoying holiday treats, moderation is key.
Maintain a bit of “normal”: The holiday season can sometimes become a free-for-all, in terms of our normal routines. Time away from the office, children being home from school, and a flurry of parties and activities can throw even the most carefully planned routines out of whack. Remember to eat healthy meals, get plenty of sleep, and keep up with personal workouts and wellness routines. Maintaining a baseline of healthy habits keeps the foundation of wellbeing solid, so that one can fully enjoy the season.
Wherever you may be and however you may celebrate the season, we wish you health and good cheer! A very merry holiday to you from all of us at Boon!
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