Escaping Holiday Stress

We’re now well into the holiday season! Decorating, baking, cooking, shopping, attending parties, emails, phone calls, planning flights, working… Time to ask yourself – how am I feeling about this? Is the answer: “Stressed”?

For the majority of people, the holidays are hardly a relaxing time. There’s just so much to do that we typically come to the end of them needing a vacation! Is this what holidays are supposed to be like? Not in my opinion, and probably not in yours either! For me, the holiday season is meant to be a time spent visiting with family, gathering with friends, and celebrating the joy of the season.

There are many signs of elevated stress that you may recognize in yourself or in family and friends:

  • Feeling overwhelmed

  • Irritability, Negativity or Moodiness

  • Experiencing physical symptoms such as neck tension, headaches, digestive problems

  • Having difficulty sleeping

  • Experiencing memory or concentration troubles

Some common factors that contribute to elevated stress levels during the holidays may include:

  • Trying to attend all of the many social obligations one invariably is invited to and feels they are obligated to attend (family get-togethers, potluck dinners, parties at work, lunches with friends, school events, etc…).

  • Relationship strains that come out when family who don’t see each other often gets together and are forced into close quarters for extended lengths of time.

  • Debt resulting from the financial pressures and expenses that result from excess spending on gifts.

  • Planning for holiday travel: airlines, hotel reservations, packing, house-sitters, etc…

  • Combating lineups and crowds at the malls and stores when grocery and last minute gift shopping.

  • Placing unrealistic expectations on oneself to be and do “Perfectly”: being the perfect hostess guest or cook, giving the perfect gift, decorating the perfect tree, etc…

  • Unhappy memories of deaths or illnesses that may have impacted you or your loved ones in previous holidays or earlier in the year.

  • Not taking the time care for oneself and foregoing exercise, time outside and sleep.

  • Overindulging on holiday food, sweets or alcohol.

Here are a few tips that can help you cope with the added stress that can accumulate this holiday season:

  • Time management: Schedule your time well and write it down!. There are only so many engagements you can realistically attend, don’t think you have to be everywhere. No one expects you to be!

  • Organization: Making a list is a great idea! Know what you want to buy, decorate early, book travel in advance, prepare whatever you can ahead of time!

  • Patience: Try to set aside differences when dealing with difficult people this time of year. It’s the time for focusing on similarities and closeness, not differences.

  • Budget: Set a self and/or family a maximum holiday spending allowance and stick to it! Plan and buy ahead of time when possible, buy local and don’t overdo it. This is one you’ll appreciate both immediately and in the future when you’re not paying excessive credit card bills! The holidays really aren’t and shouldn’t be about the gifts!

  • Be kind: Don’t expect perfection out of yourself or anyone else. Nothing has to be, or will ever be “perfect” so don’t think it should be. As long as you’ve put effort and love into what you’ve done, made and prepared, it can never be better!

  • Reach out: If this is a depressing or lonely time for you, reach out and accept support from family and friends. Attend church gatherings or other functions where you feel kindness and compassion and where you can meet new people and connect. You may establish friendships that last well past the season!

  • Lend a hand: Plan on doing some volunteer work this season: Donate at the food bank, help out at food kitchens, donate a new coat or hat to a warm clothing drive. Helping others automatically helps one feel better and makes us remember what the season is all about.

  • Remember to take care of yourself!

  • Keep up with your exercise regime right through the holidays. Make it a priority and put it at the top of the list. It’ll help with your emotional state and prevent weight gain that can occur from savouring the holiday dishes.

  • Maintain a healthy diet, at least most of the time. Making sure you eat a healthy breakfast every day and have wholesome snacks and dishes available at meals will help prevent overindulgence in less healthy treats, and will also ensure you get the adequate nutrients you need!

  • Moderation is the key – especially where alcohol, caffeine and sweets are involved. Enjoy but don’t overdo it – you’ll be happy you did later!

  • Take time for yourself: have a bubble bath, read a book, walk the dog, go skating. Taking a break whenever you can will help draw out this wonderful season and allow you to enjoy every moment that much more!

Happy Holidays!

Dr Katarine Holewa, ND

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