The American Psychological Association (APA) reminds us that despite the festivities, stress and anxiety actually increase during the holidays. ‘This the season to be healthy, happy and stress-free?” Absolutely. Here are a few practical tips for lowering holiday stress that are sure to find you calm and relaxed.
No. 1: Toss Perfection Out the Window If you’re hosting a holiday celebration this season, you’re not alone if you feel intense pressure to create the perfect event for family and loved ones. Balancing a busy work schedule with holiday activities makes it nearly impossible to do everything well. Don’t allow yourself to fail by aiming for perfection. Instead, prioritize activities that can be done easily and set realistic goals. Do you really need customized place settings for dinner? Toss perfection out the window, simplify plans and delegate tasks to those willing to help.
No. 2: Focus on the Here and Now Intense stress during the holidays is often the result of worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. Will there be enough time to get everything done? Will strained family relationships create conflict? Ease nerves and anxiety during the holidays by living in the present – focus on only the task at hand and turn off a racing mind that can clutter organized thoughts.
No. 3: Take a Minute to Put It Into Perspective When asked, most people cite spending time with family and friends as the most enjoyable part of the holidays. Not surprisingly, it’s not the gifts, fabulous decorations, even the food that people remember the most. If you find yourself drifting away from the true meaning of the season and it’s causing elevated stress and anxiety, take a minute to realign your focus. For example, rather than fight crowds at the mall, consider making homemade gifts or giving gifts of service to friends and family.
No. 4: Give Yourself Permission to Say “No” Social gatherings are everywhere during the holidays, and it’s tough not to feel pressure to attend each and every event. Give yourself permission to say “no”, and remember that only you can create opportunities to recharge, rejuvenate and re-energize. While there is no right or wrong way to celebrate, taking time out for yourself by saying “no” every once in a while is a smart, practical way to manage elevated stress.
No. 5: Recognize and Avoid Stress Triggers Holiday stress can take many forms. For some, pressure to succumb to the commercialism of the season creates anxiety about running up credit card debt. For others, fear of strained relationships makes getting together with family tense. Learn to recognize your stress triggers and make smart choices to avoid or reduce them. For instance, create a budget to prevent overspending or plan a seating arrangement ahead of time to reduce conflict opportunities at family gatherings.
The key to enjoying the holiday season is learning how to recognize and manage elevated stress. By keeping it simple and focusing on the task at hand, giving yourself permission to opt out of stressful situations and making smart choices, a healthy, happy and stress free holiday season can be within reach.
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