The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, right? Everyone is cheerful. It’s the season of giving. Heck, even Andy Williams sings a song about it. What’s not to love?
Well, if you ask the 62% of Americans who reported elevated stress levels during the holidays, they might be able to answer that question for you.
Combine chaotic schedules, tight budgets, unrealistic expectations, and busy crowds (my fellow introverts can relate to that one!) and it’s no wonder that so many of us battle holiday stress during the “hap-happiest season of all.”
Well, guess what, my busy-awesome friends. It doesn’t have to be that way. And that’s what I’m here to talk about with you today.
If you’re a fellow stressed-out human when the holidays roll around, keep reading. This post is filled with 10 actionable strategies that you can use to beat holiday stress and truly celebrate the season.
Let’s do this!
Holiday Stress: How to Enjoy the Season with 10 Simple Tips
1. Quality, Not Quantity: It’s Okay to Say No
I know, I get it. There is so much pressure to do “all the things” when it comes to the holidays. We feel like we must attend all the parties, goto all the holiday shows, buy all the presents, observe all the traditions, and eat all the cookies.
Here’s the deal friends, as the tune Deck the Halls reminds us, ’tis the season to be jolly. But when we pressure ourselves to squeeze these extra activities into our already busy schedules, we magnify our stress levels tenfold. What’s more, we lose our jolly-factor pretty darn quick.
So rather than causing unnecessary anxiety, learn to say no.
Highlight the most important traditions and events that you wish to attend, and politely decline the rest. Wouldn’t you rather have a relaxed season with a handful of incredible highlights than a frazzled season jam-packed with a blur of stressful memories?
If you struggle to say no, be sure to check out my post filled with strategies to say no with grace and ease.
2. Lower Expectations and Let Go of Perfection
As a recovering perfectionist, this is a hard one for me. I’m often that woman trying to uphold every tradition, find the perfect gifts, have the perfect cookie spread, hang the perfect lights (you get the idea…)
Over the last few years, however, my life grew increasingly busy and – out of necessity – I learned to let this perfectionism go. Was it hard? Yep. But is it better this way? Oh, heck yes.
I finally realized that people won’t mind that they don’t receive 20 (!?) different types of cookies on their cookie tray each year. The food will taste just as good on paper plates as they do on the “nice” dishes. And the world will keep spinning if we don’t send out a holiday card on time (or in the case of last year – at all).
Though it’s sometimes hard to let these details go, try to remind yourself of what the holiday season is all about. For me, that means spending quality time with those I love while practicing gratitude for everything I have in my life. When we can keep this in the forefront of our minds, it’s a little easier to forget about finding the perfect napkin rings for our dinner party.
3. Practice Re-framing
As much as I wish this weren’t true, things don’t always go as planned. And this can be both stressful and frustrating.
Maybe you can’t find parking in the crazy mall parking lot. Perhaps you burned your batch of cookies and only a few in the middle survived. Maybe airplane tickets were too expensive and you couldn’t travel to see your extended family for Thanksgiving.
Whether big or small, snags in your plan can quickly increase your holiday stress, and this is especially true when you focus on the negative.
If you take these situations and practice reframing, however, it’s amazing how quickly those negative emotions dissipate. Consider the examples above.
Yes, you had to park ridiculously far away from the mall, but at least you got more steps in!
Sure, you burned your batch of cookies, but there are just enough for your cookie tray and there’s less temptation leftover on the counter.
Yes, it’s incredibly disappointing that you couldn’t travel, but you get to avoid the holiday airport rush, and you get to celebrate a quiet Thanksgiving with just you and your partner.
No, the situations aren’t ideal, but when we practice finding the silver lining, it helps alleviate the frustration a bit.
4. Know your Stress Triggers and Prepare for them
Do you always get overwhelmed when you’re surrounded by large groups of people? Are you a person who gets stressed when there is not a clear plan? Does your patience dissipate when people get in your way in the kitchen? If so, then you’re exactly like me. Because those are my stress triggers. Ha!
I’m an introvert, and while I love being around family and friends, large groups of people drain me of my energy. What’s more, it also causes me anxiety. Because of this, I find my stress levels rise considerably during the holidays if I don’t prepare myself. Now that I better understand my triggers, however, I’ve come up with strategies to help me prepare.
I set a “leave time” for parties so I don’t get overwhelmed and feel pressured to stay when I’ve reached my limit. Similarly, I attend gatherings with someone I know well; that way, I don’t have to endure the awkward small talk at which I am terrible. (Thank God Ryan is so good at talking to people.)
While not everyone loves to follow as rigid a schedule as I do, I find having a plan also eases my stress. Therefore, when I’m visiting family or I’m on a long holiday, I try to maintain some structure in my schedule; it helps me prepare for the day ahead and know what to expect.
Finally, I just let people know I’m crazy about my kitchen space.
TLDR: figure out what causes your holiday stress and create backup plans to ease the tension when it arises.
5. Stick with your routine
When the holidays roll around, however, it’s often easy to throw out those routines and get lost in the bustle.
Not surprisingly, this can quickly lead to holiday stress.
Rather than taking an all or nothing approach, strive to maintain the routines that make you feel good. Get enough sleep. Hit the gym. Continue journaling before bed each night. The holiday season can stretch out for nearly two months, and by holding onto some consistency in your routine, you keep the stress at bay.
What’s more, by sticking to a routine, you (hopefully) ensure some “me-time” as well, which is an absolute necessity during this busy time of year.
Looking for tips on creating the perfect daily routine? Check out my top tips here!
6. Plan Ahead for Shopping
Between finding the “perfect” gift, battling the shopping crowds, and getting your hands on the latest “must-have” items, it’s no secret that shopping can be a major cause of holiday stress.
Luckily, there are ways to lessen that pressure.
First, let go of the idea that you must find the perfect gift. Seriously, release that pressure and simply ask for a wishlist. You’ll know what to look for, and the recipient will get what they want. It’s as simple as that.
Second, start early – in both the season and the day. Rather than fighting the crowds on the weekend before Christmas, challenge yourself to start shopping early. After you get those wishlists, set aside a day toward the beginning of the season for shopping. If possible, choose a weekday morning – the earlier the better – and beat the crowds.
I have a friend who takes a personal day in the middle of the week to do all of her holiday shopping. She also schedules a massage at the end of the day as a reward. I absolutely love this approach. Bonus tip: don’t forget to treat yourself.Manage your holiday stress: don't forget to treat yourself! #TreatYourself #Holidays #Stress Click To Tweet
7. Create a Budget
Finances are another significant cause of holiday stress. And no wonder; I came across a staggering statistic that it takes an average of four months for a credit card user to pay off their holiday bills. FOUR MONTHS!? That’s crazy talk, people.
So how do we beat financial holiday stress?
Simply put: create a budget and stick to it.
Some people set a strict “per person” gift budget. Others set an overall budget. Some people withdraw a specific amount of cash and once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Find whatever approach works for you and follow through. This will both relieve holiday stress and prevent overwhelm in January when the credit card bill rolls around.
8. Get Enough Sleep
I cannot stress this point enough. If you want to reduce holiday stress, then you need to get enough sleep.
Study after study has repeatedly shown the negative impact of sleep deprivation on stress levels. According to a study by the APA, when study participants got under the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep, “more than half (53 percent) report[ed] feeling sluggish or lazy, 38 percent report[ed] feeling irritable, 29 percent report[ed] they have trouble concentrating and 25 percent report[ed] feeling no motivation to take care of responsibilities.” What’s more, adults who slept less than 8 hours a night reported higher stress levels overall.
So seriously, friends. Make sleep a priority this season.
You: But Paula, I try to get enough sleep, but I can’t fall asleep at night.
Me: I hear you; I struggle with the same thing.
If you find yourself tossing and turning throughout the night, try winding down with a bedtime routine. Find ways to quiet your mind, unplug from technology, and relax.
Another favorite tip is to use essential oils before bed; I’ve been a huge fan of essential oils recently, and the Sleepy Essential Oil Blend and the Peace and Tranquillity Blend are wonderful options for calming a racing mind.
If you’re interested in giving these scents a try, I definitely recommend checking out Simply Earth. This company provides incredible oils at super affordable prices ($10 per bottle!). No subscription necessary.
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9. Take Care of Yourself
Are you ready for another staggering statistic? The majority of us (74%) overload on unhealthy snacks and treats to help get us through our holiday stress. What’s more, 60% of us feel guilt for those very eating habits after the holidays end.
It’s no secret that this time of year is filled with the temptation to eat sugary, delicious treats. Unfortunately, those very treats that taste so good are also filled with empty calories that cause major energy crashes.
While it’s fine to indulge every once in a while, avoid the “It’s the holidays!” mentality and eat like it’s Thanksgiving all season long.
Instead, focus on fueling your body with energy-rich foods. Fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, lean proteins, and satiating nuts, are all great ways to take care of your body and feel great throughout the season.
Similarly, don’t give up on your workout routine. Be sure to keep your body moving, whether that’s hitting the gym for your favorite class or going for a walk outside in the fresh air. Sticking with your routine and keeping yourself active is a great way to kick holiday stress to the curb.
10. Practice Gratitude
It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the pursuit of a “perfect” holiday season. So as often as possible, take time to practice gratitude. Doing so helps us to reframe our thoughts and start seeing the silver lining in more situations.
My favorite way to practice gratitude is with a gratitude journal. For the past 6 1/2 months, I’ve spent a few minutes each night recording why I’m grateful that day. Sometimes the entries are quite lengthy, while others (especially when it’s late) contain a short list of 3 bullet points.
Regardless of the length, the key point is to acknowledge the wonderful things – both big and small – that surround us every day.
As I mention in my How to Start a Gratitude Journal post, there are so many benefits to practicing daily gratitude.
- You will likely increase your awareness of the joys that surround you.
- You have the opportunity to learn more about yourself, and what’s important to you.
- Practicing gratitude can help lower your stress by finding the silver lining.
- You may sleep easier by making gratitude journaling part of your bedtime routine.
- By focusing on the good, you put yourself in a better headspace and raise your frequency. This radiates to everyone around you. Not only will you feel good, but you’ll also bring others up along the way.
I don’t know about you, but those benefits certainly help to lower my holiday stress!
If you’re interested in starting a gratitude journal this holiday season, but you’re not sure what to write, consider the seven journal prompts below. Choose one or two that speak to you, and write about them. You can use the same prompts repeatedly, or you can try a new one every day this week. The choice is up to you!
1. I am grateful for three things that I hear right now because:
2. I am grateful for my friend [blank] because:
3. I am grateful for these three character traits because:
4. I am grateful for laughing about [blank] today because:
5. I am grateful for these three simple pleasures because:
6. I am grateful for this morning because:
7. I am grateful for this tradition because:
Love the idea of keeping a gratitude journal? Fantastic! Be sure to grab my list of 31 gratitude prompts – one for every day of the month – and kiss your holiday stress goodbye.
There you have it, friends – my top 10 ways to beat holiday stress and truly celebrate the season. Give them a try today and let me know which ones work best for you!
Do you feel overwhelmed during this season? How do you handle holiday stress? Let me know below!