Seasonal stress is often an unwelcome guest during the holidays. It’s almost expected! The demands of decorating, shopping, cleaning, baking, parties and hosting relatives, brings whirling thoughts of glittery expectations.
Seasonal Stress is more common than we realize. We all identify with the mom who shops, wraps and stays up late at night only to listen to her child whine his gift was not as good as the neighbor’s next door, or with the dad who acts like the Grinch as he reviews the latest Visa bill. We love movies like Santa Clause, Miracle on 34th Street and Polar Express that remind us there’s more to this commercial frenzy and flurry.
Learning to cope with stress is a necessary skill for healthy living. Some stress can be beneficial at times, producing a boost that provides the drive and energy to help people get through situational stress, like exams or work deadlines. Unmanaged, traumatic or chronic stress, however, can lead to both physical and psychological health issues.
Seasonal stress that is due to demands on time, money or family conflict can typically be managed with healthy stress management behaviors. Our response to these demands, or stressors, can significantly reduce symptoms and make the season far more enjoyable.
Consider these four tips:
- Set Expectations
- Match your giving desires with your actual budget. Know your limits.
- Stick to the list. Talk to your kids about expectations for gifts and holiday activities and share your longer term goals. Teach them the Christmas season isn’t about expensive gifts.
- Plan tasks ahead such as cleaning, shopping and baking.
- Take small concrete steps to deal with holiday tasks instead of overwhelming yourself with goals that are too much during this busy time. This is not the time to clean out the closet.
- Schedule Self-Care
- Plan ahead for meals and healthy snacks.
- Plan physical activity. Regular physical activity relieves mental and physical tension.
- Keep regular sleep habits as much as possible.
- Plan some pampering time. Take time out to listen to your favorite music, take a hot bath or read a new book.
Eating healthy and taking time for exercise and sleep help keep your mind and body equipped to deal with stressful situations. Don’t spend all your extra time shopping! Others benefit when you are stress-free.
- Start Connecting
- Engage in activities that you and your family enjoy and find relaxing
- Foster traditions or activities that involve interacting with others, such as building a Gingerbread House, caroling or delivering homemade cookies.
- Invite friends over. Ask your guests to each bring a dish or meet at a restaurant.
Relationships are the best gifts. Good relationships with family and friends can be lifelong pleasures. View the season as an opportunity to reconnect with people.
- Maintain Perspective
- Read the Bible. Start with the Christmas Story found in the book of Luke.
- Find the positive. Avoid blowing events out of proportion.
- Be thankful for small things.
- Keep your sense of humor; laughter is good medicine.
- Helping others helps you. When things get tough, help someone worse off than you are. Visit a shut in or return a favor to a friend.
When do you need help?
Solicit help when stress affects your behavior, relationships and body. Unmanaged or chronic stress leads to mental and physiological issues such as anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. Research indicates stress can contribute to major illnesses such as heart disease, depression and obesity.
Managing Seasonal Stress is easier when you Set Expectations, Schedule Self-Care, Start Connecting and Maintain Perspective. Grant yourself a little peace this season.
HopeNet is a faith based nonprofit organization transforming lives through coaching and counseling. For over 25 years HopeNet has provided mental health services on a sliding scale made possible by donor support.