The holiday season is a wonderful time that brings families together, gets children excited and usually involves tons of delicious foods. It is also the time that is fueled by excessive spending, last-minute shopping, holiday commercialism, cleaning, baking, working ... To sum up, it can be a very stressful season.
During the holidays, our normal struggles seem to intensify tenfold, making us yearn for January. This stress is experienced in a variety of forms such as increased heart rate, stomach in "knots", clammy hands, headaches and muscle tensions. The main trigger points for our increased stress-levels are relationships, finances and physical demands. Let's begin with relationships. Family tensions can heighten during the holidays, when family and friends stay over for several days. On the other hand, those spending the holidays without family can experience loneliness and sadness. Next, probably one of the biggest stress triggers is finances. When trying to fulfill everyone's wishes, overspending is a guarantee. Not only does our credit card balance soar because of spending on presents, but hidden costs like food and travel expenses can quickly add up, leaving a hole in our wallet. Lastly, the holiday season leaves us physically exhausted. Attending social gatherings can be straining, and preparing the perfect dinner, cleaning the house and running through the mall, is not only physically demanding, but leaves us with less time to relax and sleep.
Unfortunately, for many of us this is reality, which shades the bright spots of the holiday season. So, what can we do to prevent and manage stressful situations, improving our overall holiday experience this year?
1. Become self-aware: Start observing how you handle stress. Do you smoke or stress-eat? Do you attempt to ignore the "knots" in your stomach? It is important to not only recognize your body's response to stressful situations, but also to become aware of your own behavior. This is the first step that leads us to the second point.
2. Be good to yourself: Taking care of yourself helps your mind and body to handle the stress. Take time out to exercise, read a book and eat healthy. Engage in activities that you enjoy.
3. Manage your finances: Decide how much you can afford before you go shopping. Avoid overspending by paying cash instead of using a credit card. Consider making homemade gifts or donating to a charity in someone's name. Don't develop unrealistic expectations and feel obligated to get everything on the wish list. Don't forget to consider how much you will have to spend on gas to visit family or how much your dinner party will cost.
4. It's time to say 'No': While we may have an urge to say yes to everyone, it is crucial to understand our own limits. Saying yes to everything will not only leave you exhausted, but can also make you feel bitter and resentful. So now is the time to say no. Your friend will understand if you cannot attend her party, and your family will find another location if you cannot host the dinner party this year.
5. Ask for help: The holiday season is the perfect time to help each other out. Ask your children to make a dessert this year and have your spouse help with cleaning the house. Suggest a potluck dinner this year, so the responsibility of cooking doesn't fall on just one person.
Lastly, have a wonderful holiday season! Enjoy the time spent together with family and friends, and don't stress out over a burned apple-pie or the perfect Christmas tree.