On top of our regular everyday tasks (endless laundry, grocery shopping, kids’ activities, housekeeping, working, etc.), holiday festivities add more to-do list items, more pressure for social engagement and more opportunities (or obligations) to interact with extended family. So, while the holidays can be a time of good cheer, they are also a breeding ground for stress that can negatively impact mental health.
To counteract the holiday chaos, use these stress-busting tips:
- Right-size expectations (of yourself and others): Acknowledge and accept loved ones’ limitations to help prevent resentment. For example, if mom is always late, prepare yourself for this inevitable occurrence rather than expecting her to be on time. In yourself, recognize that attempting to give the “perfect” gift or host the “perfect” holiday gathering are setups for disappointment. Aim instead for “good enough” and your mental health will thank you.
- Maintain self-care: Now, more than ever, getting adequate rest and physical activity as well as eating a healthy diet are important behaviors for replenishing your inner resources.
- Create/enforce boundaries: Determine how much time with family (if any) that you can tolerate. If there’s a cousin, for example, who has a habit of offending you, be clear about your plans and limit the time accordingly.
- Make a de-stress strategy: Decide ahead of time how you might handle feeling sad, stressed or anxious. Who might you call to plan a get together? What calms and relaxes you? Where is your happy place? Rather than ignoring or trying to suppress negative feelings if holiday stress occurs, be prepared to take a break and use one of your planned strategies instead.
- Tis’ better to give than to receive: Focus more on how you can be of service to those around you and less on how you’re perceived or what you can gain. This attitude is an antidote to self-pity.
- Practice an attitude of gratitude: Take some time to reflect on all the goodness in your life.
- Avoid HALT (being too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired): These are common culprits in emotional distress.
- Incorporate self-compassion. Set reminders on your phone or place post-its around your home to signal a quick break for self-compassion, which has been shown to improve personal happiness and increase interpersonal wellbeing.
By considering these tips in your holiday plans, you’ll be well on your way to less stress and more comfort and joy!