Feeling overwhelmed with the busy-ness of the holidays? Here are 4 tips for coping with holiday stress.
The chaos and busy-ness of the holiday season is starting to kick into high gear, and you may be having a hard time managing holiday stress. If you’re feeling especially overwhelmed this year, you’re not alone. The holidays are extremely busy even under normal circumstances, and now that our country is having to adapt our holiday traditions to protect our communities from COVID-19, many of us are dealing with a whole new level of stress.
Ultimately, it’s important to take time to care for yourself and make sure you’re doing all you can to stay calm, safe and focused on the reason for the season: connecting with and being grateful for our loved ones. Here are a few tips for coping with holiday stress that will help you make the most of this busy time.
Create a schedule
One of the most overwhelming things about the holidays is the rush to get a lot of things done in a short amount of time. Between family gatherings (whether they’re virtual or in-person), gift shopping, sending cards and participating in other holiday traditions, it can sometimes feel difficult to find a moment to relax.
Creating a schedule for yourself throughout the weeks leading up to the holiday can help you break your to-dos into smaller, easier tasks so you don’t have to feel rushed. For instance, schedule a couple of days in the beginning of December to complete all your Christmas shopping, followed by a deadline for yourself to ship all your gifts on a certain date. Being able to cross tasks off your list will help you feel more accomplished and less overwhelmed.
Care for your mental health
Though scientific evidence doesn’t suggest the holidays themselves are a cause of mental health issues, stress during the holidays can cause additional struggles for those who are already struggling with issues such as anxiety and depression. That’s why it’s very important to pay attention to your moods and feelings during the holidays and take time to check in with yourself.
If you’re experiencing any symptoms of depression – including feelings of sadness, major changes in sleeping or eating habits, feelings of guilt, excessive fatigue or lack of enjoyment in normal activities – don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help.
Additionally, if you notice any changes in behavior or signs of depression in a loved one, consider lovingly reaching out and asking if you can help or support them with anything.
Set personal boundaries
The holidays are full of invitations to connect with loved ones and participate in various activities – but after a while, even the funnest events can feel more exhausting than entertaining. Add to that the pressure of making the safest possible decisions during a pandemic, and it can feel almost impossible to please everyone without sacrificing your own peace of mind and need for relaxation.
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries for yourself, and only commit to the things that you truly want to be a part of. For example, maybe you don’t have the capacity to participate in your friend group’s gift exchange this year – be honest about your situation and take care of yourself and your needs. Or perhaps you’ve been invited to a holiday party, but aren’t comfortable attending given the risk of exposing yourself to COVID-19. It’s okay to say no and prioritize your health and well-being.
Sometimes it can be hard to set boundaries, because we can feel like we’re disappointing people we care about. But setting boundaries is an important way to care for ourselves so that we can be a better friend, family member, colleague, neighbor and partner to those around us. The holidays are a time where we can often be so focused on providing for other people that we forget to take care of ourselves, but it’s absolutely critical to practice self-care.
Need ideas on polite ways to say “no”? Here are some thoughts:
- Keep it vague but effective: e.g., “Thanks for asking, but that isn’t going to work out for me this year.”; “It’s not personal; I’m just not going to any holiday parties this year.”
- Keep trying: e.g., “None of those dates work for me, but I would love to see you. What are some other times you’re available?”
- Gratitude: e.g., “Thank you so much for thinking of me! I’m sorry I can’t participate.”
- Just say no: e.g., “Thanks, but I’ll have to pass on that this year.”
- Setting boundaries: e.g., “Let me tell you what I can do…” – then limit the commitment to what you will be comfortable with; “I’m maxed out.”
Try not to overindulge
For many of us, the holidays are a time to enjoy some of our favorite meals and activities and splurge a little bit more on things that bring us joy. This is part of what makes the season so enjoyable, and you definitely deserve to treat yourself and have a good time.
However, be sure you are still eating plenty of nutrients, drinking enough water and making time for regular exercise. Keeping yourself healthy and nourished as much as possible will help you avoid feeling sluggish or “burning out.”
This also applies to overindulging on purchases. The holidays have the potential to cause a lot of financial stress, so be sure to remain mindful of your budget and avoid unnecessary major purchases as much as possible.
Ultimately, caring for your mental and physical health during the holidays comes down to making time for self-care and prioritizing your well-being.
If you’d like more tips on managing holiday stress or want to book an in-person or telehealth appointment with one of our doctors, visit ValleywiseHealth.org or call 1 (833) VLLYWSE.