How to Cope with Holiday Stress: 5 Pro Tips
It may be the "most wonderful time of the year." But let's be honest – holidays are stressful. Even those who exude holiday spirit have more on their plates than any other time of the year. With planning, hosting, gift giving, card sending, cooking, decorating, traveling, and overindulging, it's no wonder that 38% of Americans feel their stress levels rise during the "hap-happiest season of all."
That statistic climbs significantly for anyone with a history of depression or anxiety and those already worried about finances. The holiday season can also trigger tremendous grief and emptiness in anyone who has lost loved ones. It's common to reflect on the year and feel disappointed with the passage of time or unmet goals. All of this can lead to greater emotional strain.
Common signs and symptoms of holiday stress include:
- Body aches
- Sleep problems
- Difficulty Focusing
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Depressed mood
Stress is painful and carries health risks. The destructive coping mechanisms for managing stress are even more harmful than the symptoms themselves. Stress often results in increased illness, substance abuse, and high rates of anxiety and depression. Together, the unhealthy symptoms and behaviors from stress contribute to major health problems such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
Why are the holidays stressful?
While the holidays are meant to be a time of joy, high expectations, financial burdens, and lack of self-care often result in stress. If we map out what's really happening between the glasses of eggnog and laughter at White Elephant gift exchanges, it's easy to see why anxiety spikes toward the end of the year.
The top causes of holiday stress are:
- Financial strain
- Self-pressure and perfectionism
- Increase in social situations
- Family dynamics
- Memories of lost loved ones and traditions
- To-do list overload
- Full calendar
- Increased traffic and road rage
- Overindulging in food and alcohol
The Instagram-worthy holiday is usually fueled by shopping, decorating, trying to keep up with traditions, and delivering the "perfect" experience. This requires more time, money, and brain power than usual. And the pressure adds up quickly. When you forget to send a card or move the kid's elf, you may experience a greater sense of failure than at other times of the year.
Despite all the advice out there, you can't "avoid" holiday stress. But you can be proactive and implement steps to approach it. With a plan in place, the season will be not only manageable but also enjoyable.
Tips to manage holiday stress like a pro
- Plan ahead
Map out your season, setting aside days for everything on your list. Block time on your calendar for shopping, baking, getting together with friends, addressing cards, and wrapping presents in addition to gatherings. It may feel like a lot at first, but having a clear plan will help you stay organized. And putting all activities in your calendar will make it achievable. This level of time-blocking benefits mental health and productivity, especially during stressful times.
Holiday planning goes far beyond your daily to-do list. Do you get anxious in social settings? Are there family members that are difficult to spend extended time with? Think through what triggers you and prepare for these situations. Practice coping mechanisms to reduce social anxiety at parties or deal with difficult family at the holidays. With heightened awareness and tactics in place, holiday gatherings will be more enjoyable.
- Set a budget
Setting a holiday budget is important to ensure you get the most out of the season without overspending. While it's easy to justify splurges in the moment, holiday debt adds new stress that may take a toll on the rest of the year. Take care of your financial and mental health by setting a budget and sticking to it.
First, determine how much money you can afford to spend. Be realistic. Consider factors such as gift-giving, decorations, food, travel, and entertainment. Once you have a number in mind, create a list of items you plan to buy and divide your budget accordingly. For example, put a dollar amount by everyone's name on your gift-giving list. This will help you know exactly what price range to look for.
Be sure to check for sales and discounts. Consider giving homemade gifts, experiences, and last year's electronics. Remember to factor in taxes and shipping costs. Implement the four-gift rule for kids to avoid breaking the bank: "something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read."
- Honor your needs
It's essential to prioritize your mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, especially during busy and stressful seasons. Taking time to care for yourself reduces feelings of anxiety, depression, and overwhelming emotions. Self-care also helps prevent burnout by taking a break and recharging your energy without judgment. If you are too drained and overwhelmed, it's impossible to give the best of yourself to others.
Listen to your body and make time for yourself. Carve out a few minutes each day to relax. Practice meditation or even take deep breaths to stay grounded and present. When you have twenty minutes or more, consider a long hot shower, yoga, reading, listening to music, or calling a friend. Acknowledge your feelings without judgment, and don't be afraid to say no. Overcommitting yourself will only backfire. Respecting your needs will result in a more enjoyable holiday for yourself and those around you.
- Focus on small healthy habits
Taking care of your physical health can help you better manage stress and stay energized and focused during the holidays. It also helps to keep your immunity up so you can enjoy the festivities without getting sick. Exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep are all essential to maintaining good physical health during the holidays.
Don't get us wrong, we understand that indulging is part of the holiday experience. There's nothing wrong with enjoying some extra sweets or a cocktail, as long as the consequences don't leave you feeling worse than when you started. Make sure to stay hydrated and get plenty of rest at night. Incorporate healthy food into your meals for the nutritional support your body needs. Strive for twenty minutes of movement each day. This can be as simple as dancing around the house or going for a walk. Getting outside is even better as fresh air, and vitamin D from the sun can do wonders for our physical and mental health.
An easy way to hit these goals is to set a health intention at the beginning of each day. It should be something you are going to do, NOT something you plan to cut out. For example, setting the intention "I'm not going to eat cookies or drink any alcohol" will likely fail because you'll be obsessed with two thoughts all day: cookies and alcohol. Focus on what you can and will do, such as "I will drink eight glasses of water, go for a twenty-minute minute walk, and get in bed by 10:00 pm". This sets a small achievable goal that doesn't lead to massive guilt.
- Incorporate Supplements
Nutritional supplements are a great tool to manage stress levels during the holidays. Certain vitamins, minerals, and herbs can help your body cope with stress on the cellular level. For example, B vitamins have been shown to promote reduced levels of stress, while minerals, such as magnesium and zinc, can assist regulate your hormones and support reduced anxiety. Additionally, some supplements may assist in boosting your body's natural defenses against stress, such as omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics. Incorporating stress supplements into your lifestyle can help the body remain resilient, maintain balance, promote energy levels, and support the immune system through the holidays and beyond.
What Nutritional Supplement is Recommended for Stress Management?
While many nutritional supplements benefit stress management, some formulas are better than others. Below are our top recommendations for stress support supplements to combat holiday and seasonal stress.
B-Complex is a combination of B vitamins, choline, inositol, and PABA to support brain health, energy, and cell metabolism. Vitamin B6 assists with the production of serotonin, the key hormone for stabilizing mood and promoting feelings of happiness. B-complex supports emotional balance, nervous system health, & healthy sleep. It is a great way to increase nutrition and balance physical and emotional stress.
Relax+ supports emotional and physical tension. This formula contains a blend of B vitamins and herbs shown to support a healthy stress response, relieve tension, and promote a positive mood. Natural botanicals, such as chamomile and ginger, support the relaxation of muscles that can trigger aches and tension headaches. The ingredients of Relax+ may support the relief of chronic stress that leads to depression and other mental disorders. Relax+ is also available in liquid form.
Valerian Root has been used for hundreds of years to promote calm nerves and healthy sleep cycles. Valerian is a plant with natural sedative effects that can promote a healthy stress response and ease feelings of anxiety. It contains volatile oils with soothing effects that also promote sleep quality. People who take valerian root have reported falling asleep faster and being able to stay asleep longer with fewer wakings. Valerian Root is also available in liquid form.
May your days be merry and bright – and your holiday stress be light!
Your Hispanic American Health Store
Health Hispanica® is a Hispanic-American health store specializing in supplements from Hispanic-American-owned brands such as Natura-Genics® and Yerba Farma®. We strive to provide quality and innovative supplements at fair prices and educate our clients and community on healthy living.
The statements above have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.