While the holiday season is often overflowing with messages of fun, family and picturesque gatherings, the truth is that 60% of people feel stress during the holiday months (SpringHealth). It is not surprising that in a time when expenses are typically higher, events are more numerous and the season often changes, stress can follow. However, although this time can be overwhelming, there are ways to manage your stress and even create peace this holiday season.
First and foremost, remember that “no” is a full sentence. Many people feel guilty for saying no, whether that be to RSVPs, volunteering, extra work, etc. While these events or situations might seem okay or even enjoyable, knowing how to prevent burnout is key. If you’re the kind of person who will feel depleted after 3 days of events, then saying “yes” to lots of invites is probably not the best idea. If staying late at the office makes you antsy and stressed, try leaving on time.
Usually, we put pressure on ourselves to meet certain expectations, which has the potential to drain our batteries. Remember, setting boundaries is a way to establish self-respect, and declining an event or superfluous task does not require an explanation. Some simple ways to decline include: “Thank you for the invite, we won’t be able to attend.” “Thank you so much for thinking of me. I won’t be able to come this year. Happy Holidays!” Even a simple “I won’t be able to make it.” is enough.
Examples of boundary setting include:
-Leaving events after a certain amount of time
-Leaving work on time
-Sticking to a holiday budget
-Speaking up for your needs
Next, try to get some light! Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, affects over 3 million people per year (MayoClinic). One way to relieve the symptoms is making sure you’re receiving enough light. Many people work indoors and don’t make it outside enough. If you can, try to take breaks outside and receive natural sunlight. The sun boosts the brain, body’s immunity, and nervous system. It can even improve and ward off depression. However, if going outside is not an option, investigate light therapy! There are strong lights that can mimic the sun, offering you relief and similar benefits. It can be plugged in right at your desk.
How to Get More Light:
-Spend time outside (even five minutes)
-Open the blinds for a while
-Ask to move near a window
-Buy a light therapy lamp
-Ask your doctor about taking vitamin D
Paying attention to our thoughts can be very useful, especially during this time. Often, our thoughts add more stress to our lives. Try to catch your thoughts as they happen; you might be surprised what you discover. So many of our thoughts float along unnoticed. If you can catch certain thought patterns as they’re occurring, you can interrupt them and reframe them. For instance, if you find yourself thinking, “Nobody will like my handmade gifts this year,” instead you can reframe by saying back: “I put a lot of effort into these gifts. They were made with love, and if people don’t like them, it’s not my problem.” The more we can reframe and talk back in a positive way to negative thoughts, the less stress we feel.
Another activity includes making a list of what you can and cannot control. This simple activity reminds us that fretting about what we can’t control won’t benefit us, and it also helps us be productive about what we can.
-Which events I go to
-My reaction to difficult family members
-Taking my own car to events
-The time I go to bed
-The time work starts
-My bloodwork results
-The weather for my party
Ultimately, being hard on yourself will only add stress, so try to pay attention to negative thoughts and reframe them.
Finally, create space for yourself. What is one thing you can do for yourself this week? And this doesn’t mean chores or work-related tasks (unless that brings you joy). Maybe you will make time to take a bath, make your favorite meal, journal, watch a movie or spend extra time with your animals. Think of what your body and mind need to feel refreshed and gain fulfillment and peace.
-Having alone time
-Painting your nails
While stress seems to dominate this time of year, it doesn’t have to. Remembering your boundaries, getting sunlight, identifying what is in your control and making time for yourself are just a few ways to ease holiday stress. When combined, they have the magic to restore energy and reduce seasonal overwhelm.