It’s the most wonderful time of the year…or is it? I’ll be honest with you, I actually dread the holiday season. I find the time from the end of October until New Year to be extremely stressful and overwhelming. I find myself overstimulated with holiday music, decorations, and consumerism. In addition, the obligations to attend holiday parties, family gatherings, and purchase gifts just feel daunting to me. It’s no wonder why I’m wondering how to avoid holiday stress this season!
Perhaps you find this time of year to be stressful and anxiety-provoking too?
Does thinking about holiday cards, party invitations, and family obligations make you just want to bury your head under your pillow and never come out?
I understand where you may be coming from.
Fortunately for you, I’ve figured out 9 simple ways to avoid holiday stress this season. Now you can actually enjoy and celebrate this year.
How to avoid holiday stress and not feel overwhelmed
If you’re anything like me, your heart rate starts racing when you enter the grocery store in September and start seeing Christmas decorations.
I ask myself, who in their right mind starts putting holiday decorations out when schools have just started?
Needless to say, we can’t change capitalism or marketing.
What we can do is change how we respond to stressful and anxiety-provoking situations.
So here 9 proven ways to help you get through this holiday season and avoid unnecessary stress.
1. Plan ahead
One of the best tips on how to avoid holiday stress is to begin planning ahead.
Oftentimes we get stressed out and overwhelmed when we procrastinate. This is true especially if we wait until the last minute to get prepared for the holiday season.
So despite the fact that I detest all the marketing that happens months in advance, I consider it as a gentle reminder to start planning.
To help you feel less stressed this holiday season, try this exercise:
Close your eyes and visualize what your ideal holiday season looks like. This includes what you want to do for all the holidays occurring between October and the beginning of January. Then write it down in a journal.
Simply ask yourself the following question:
“If this (fill in the blank) holiday was perfect, it would look and feel like this…”
Once you’ve written down your ideal holiday season, start making plans on manifesting those goals.
If you are going to travel during the holiday season and want to save money, start researching for flights and hotel stays in advance.
If you decide that you only want to attend two parties this year, start looking through your closet for what you may want to wear or find something to borrow.
Most importantly, identify what is most important for you during this time and prioritize it.
2. Learn to say “no”
As a people-pleaser, I understand the difficulty of having to say no. It’s not easy, especially during the stressful holiday season when you want to say yes to everything.
But ask yourself this. Is it worth adding more stress and overwhelm to your life during what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year?
The answer is probably no.
So when you start journaling or thinking about how you envision this holiday season, ask yourself which events, gatherings, and commitments are most important to you. You can even list them from most important to least important.
Oftentimes when we list things out, we can visually see our priorities right in front of us. You will notice that your priorities align with your values and those are usually non-negotiable.
If you need some more help, learn how to say “no” without feeling guilty: 6 secrets from an expert.
3. Practice self-care
As someone devoted to writing about self-care, mental health, and wellness, I can proudly say that I practice what I preach.
My daily self-care practice has been instrumental in keeping me grounded and sane during the entire year. But most importantly, the practice helps me during the overwhelming holiday season when my stress levels are higher.
Take control. Feel better.
Start your Self-care Journey.
Don’t wait until you’re severely burnt out in order to figure out how to avoid holiday stress.
As a licensed mental health professional, I’m a big believer in preventative measures so come up with a daily self-care plan and start practicing it today.
It’s past midnight, you’re exhausted and wondering if you should keep working on some project or wrapping those presents.
Here’s the best tip I can give you to help you learn how to avoid holiday stress: prioritize your sleep.
“Humor me for a moment and think of your body as a car. When a car is overheating, you stop and let it cool down. If it needs gas, you pull over to a gas station and fill the tank. You don’t just keep driving hoping the car will get to its destination.”Pantea Rahimian, LCSW
The same is true for your body, except that our mind can easily trick us into thinking we’re superhuman and can sacrifice sleep.
When you sacrifice your sleep, you actually damage your body.
So don’t do it. Focus on getting a good night’s rest during the holiday season and avoid sleep deprivation.
If you’re stressed and having a difficult time falling asleep, here are 10 Ways To Put A Racing Mind To Bed And Sleep Now.
5. Stick to a budget
One of the biggest sources of stress for all of my clients is money.
The pressure of buying gifts, hosting a party, and sending out holiday cards add up quickly. Before you know it, you are spending far more than you anticipated.
So this year, try something different.
Before the shopping season begins, set time aside and create a budget for the holidays.
Here are some questions to ask yourself for your budget:
- Who are you buying gifts for?
- Does this person actually need or want this item?
- How much can you afford to spend on each gift or person?
- Can you make a gift or donation on their behalf instead of buying something?
The key is not only to create your budget but to actually stick to it.
Don’t get caught up in a shopping spree. Instead, ask yourself these questions before you purchase anything!
6. Limit your time on social media
It’s easy to get onto Instagram or Facebook the minute you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed during the holiday season isn’t it?
But guess what, it will actually make you feel worse.
The most important advice I can give you is this.
When you are feeling stressed, stay away from social media.
Those perfect Instagram filters and Pinterest feeds won’t do anything but make you feel worse. Especially when you compare your holidays with your high school classmates that you haven’t seen in twenty years.
Remember this, social media pictures are fantasy not reality. They are a curated, filtered version of something perfect that does not exist. The photos and videos do not show the burned meals, dysfunctional family feuds, and mounting piles of credit card debt.
So this holiday season, choose human connection, joy, and laughter over thumbs-ups and retweets.
You know that your electronic device comes with an off button right? Use it.
7. Give yourself a break
While focusing on others, it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself.
If you feel tension or worry building up, spend a little time focused on something you enjoy about the season. Try watching a movie, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate, or going on a mindful walk around your neighborhood.
Giving yourself even 15 minutes to unwind may help you recharge and feel better.
8. Follow healthy habits
Instead of letting yourself have a free-for-all during the holiday season, stay healthy and focus on your wellness. Remember that overindulgence will only add to your stress and guilt.
Try these healthy habits:
- Have a healthy snack before holiday meals so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese, or drinks
- Eat healthy meals that are nutritious
- Get plenty of sleep
- Continue exercising and being active outdoors if possible
- Try deep-breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga
- Avoid excessive tobacco, alcohol, and drug use
Most importantly, remember that having healthy habits year-round actually helps you feel more energetic and focused.
9. Make connection your number one priority
The holiday time is not just about buying gifts and decorations.
Instead, it is about connecting with your loved ones. Experiencing gratitude, laughter, and engaging in heartfelt conversations.
True connections do not just happen. They are intentional and purposeful.
Try not to get so caught up in the craziness that you forget to actually enjoy the people you’re doing all this for.
If you feel anxious or stressed when you are around your family, step away to a space where you can be by yourself. I usually go to the bathroom and do a breathing exercise which helps me relax.
And remember that life is short and we really have these small moments to embrace.
With these tips in mind, it’s an opportune time to take a moment and breathe. You got this!
Remember, your physical and emotional health is important.
Ultimately this season is not about buying/receiving stuff. Instead, it is about connecting with people you love.
Try your best to focus your time and energy on what is most important to you. Prioritize your self-care and healthy habits. Don’t skimp on sleep and limit time on social media.
In doing so, you will find yourself grounded, energetic, and actually enjoying this holiday season.
What do you do to help you avoid holiday stress? What do you do to take care of your mental and physical health? What has worked for you in the past and what do you recommend for others? Please share your stories and comments below.