What does your holiday to-do list look like? We’d be willing to bet that it’s a long list of end-of-year work obligations, household tasks, and the additional load of shopping, preparing to travel or host, and packing the days with seasonal activities. Many people look forward to the holidays as a time of good cheer, but the reality is that the season can bring a great deal of stress. While there is no guarantee of preventing the anxieties that come with the holiday season, there are tools that can keep you one step ahead of holiday stress.
The Sources of Holiday Stress
The season of merriment comes with many mental health hurdles. The holidays are charged with high expectations and limited time and energy, with stress factors that are both external and internal. This time of year is a huge draw on mental and physical resources – keeping up with “holiday magic” is a tall order!
Like with so many aspects of mental burnout, the things in life that can’t be controlled are often the greatest stressors. During the holidays, individuals are generally asked to do more and more… much more than any other time of year. The professional year is ending, which means final deadlines or obligations may be looming. Holiday parties abound, which are simultaneously a joy and a burden. The desire to be connected and enjoy the festivities means that we are getting less time to slow down and regroup. With children home from school and extended family visiting, dormant stressors and uncomfortable dynamics can rear their ugly heads. Gifts, food, and activities all come at a significant financial cost and anxieties over money are among the top stressors that individuals face during the holidays.
Emotional labor is often cited as being at the center of most holiday stress. Emotional labor is an umbrella term for the emotional work that goes into our relationships. Tasks like managing tension between family members, thinking of the perfect holiday gift, or being on your A-game at a holiday office party are all big undertakings in emotional labor. The holiday season is viewed as a time for soaking up all of the positive feelings and making happy memories. When the emotional stakes are so high and the outcome is supposed to be so positive, it’s easy to forget that all of that warm holiday feeling takes up a lot of our mental and emotional bandwidth. You may be exhausting yourself without even realizing it.
Tips for Managing Stress
Struggling with the burden of holiday stress is not a good feeling, but it doesn’t have to ruin your festive season. Having a solid foundation of self-care, paired with direct action to address a stressful to-do list, can see you through any difficult time. Here are some quick tips for staying one step ahead of holiday stress:
- Maintain healthy habits: Eating healthfully. Getting plenty of sleep. Taking time to recharge. These are all things that we should be doing every day to stay healthy. This is especially true during the holiday season. Taking care of yourself ensures that you will be in the best possible shape to tackle the demands of the season.
- Plan ahead: From creating a realistic schedule to setting a budget the more you can plan ahead, the better off you will be.
- Don’t be afraid to communicate: Don’t carry the burden of stress alone. Let your loved ones know how you are feeling. Find ways to delegate the tasks of the season to individuals in your life that are able to help.
Remember, the holiday season is meant to be fun. With these tools at the ready, it should be easy to find the holiday joy in spite of the stress.
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