The holidays, a special time marked by decorations, music, gifts and time spent with family and friends, ignites a spirit of joy in most of us. Yet, for many people, this time of the year can mean high stress and anxiety. Some people tend to envision the “perfect” holiday, which often leads to unrealistic expectations or disappointment. Attempting to make sure everyone is happy during this special time of the year can easily lead to spending too much money on gifts, travel, and food.
The emotional and mental strain of shopping, preparing food, and planning social gatherings can easily increase stress and cause a great deal of tension and exhaustion. Getting ample exercise and rest, which are good remedies for stress, are often put on the back burner while chores and errands are attended to in preparation for the holidays.
It is important to avoid setting unrealistic goals for yourself during this busy time of the year. Instead, try to break down those things you need to do into daily and weekly task lists. This way, you will be able to prioritize what needs to be done and as a result, more effectively manage your time and energy. Breaking tasks down into smaller steps and prioritizing the most important ones will reduce your stress so that you can actually enjoy the holiday season instead of just trying to “get through it”.
It is natural for families to grow and change, which often leads to traditions needing to be altered or modified. If your whole family cannot get together during the holidays, come up with new ways to celebrate together such as video-conferencing or sharing photos via email. When planning holiday get-togethers, remember that not everyone will be able to live up to your expectations. If something does not go as planned, just take a deep breath, recollect yourself, and keep your focus on those things that you can control while letting go of those you can’t.
Spending too much money for holiday gifts and parties can be a major cause of stress now and many months down the road. Before you head out shopping for gifts, food or party supplies, determine how much money you can afford to spend and then stick to your budget. If you fail to do so, you could end up with feelings of anxiety and stress long after the holidays are over as you struggle to pay off your debts. Instead of trying to buy happiness with a pile of gifts, consider donating some money to charitable causes you believe in.
When you are feeling stressed out or overwhelmed, it is important to carve out some time for yourself. By spending just a few minutes alone when the pressure of the holidays becomes too much, you will be able to more effectively cope with everything you need to do. The purpose of this time is to allow yourself a moment to slow down and regroup. You may want to spend it deep breathing, meditating, practicing mindfulness, listening to music, or simply taking a walk outside.
If you continue to feel sad, anxious or stressful after the holidays, or have trouble sleeping or coping with your normal day-to-day activities, it is important to seek the help of a professional. I provide counseling and therapy services to teens and adults in Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, El Segundo, Torrance and all across the South Bay Area. You can request an appointment with me here, by email, or by calling 310-892-2572. My office is conveniently located at 2401 Pacific Coast Highway, Suite 102 in Hermosa Beach.