December is finally here! Decorations, lights, cheerful songs and good food can make us warm inside. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also the most stressful time of the year for most of us.
In this article we address holiday stress through the most two common triggers of this time: relationships and expectations from loved ones.
Who is this article for?
Stress is responsible for many sleepless nights. During holidays, not only we need to deal with stress as usual, we also need to deal with the pressure to be a-okay all the time: buy unique gifts, cook for the whole family, go on vacations, etc. This article is for everyone who is tired of feeling stressed during this time of the year, and is looking for coping strategies that are healthy and ensure well-deserved self-care 🙂
What can you take from here?
This article will help to recognize stress in relationship patterns and triggers, and will offer you strategies on how to cope. More than that, we will help you identify your priorities, needs, and stressors. Once you’ve done that, we will guide you through some communication techniques and self-care strategies that will help you to manage the holiday stress. Even more, these simple changes will contribute to your personal growth, to your mental health and will improve your relationships.
1. What is important to you during the holidays?
There’s a very consuming pressure during the holidays to have it all. So we want to invite you to reconstruct the meaning of holidays. You will and are able to make the holidays on your terms of happiness.
Forget all about should and musts and think about what you could and want to do during the holidays! Just because it’s the holiday season, you don’t have to relax, you don’t have to go shopping and you do not have to celebrate Christmas. If it’s important to you to be with your family and friends, do that! If you need the time for yourself and go away for a few days, go!
The holiday season is a construct, and you have all the power and the right to reconstruct it based on your needs and dreams. If you find joy in buying and wrapping gifts, go crazy with the wrapping papers and make your living room a Santa’s workshop. If you find peace in skiing or hiking, pack your bag and go wild. When you feel like binging on your favorite TV shows and eat cake for lunch, make yourself a cozy nest on your couch.
2. Identify the stressors and take them as they are
Holiday stress can mean a lot of things. You may find shopping in crowded malls stressful or meeting large groups of family members and friends overwhelming. The pressure to arrange everything and make holidays perfect can put a lot of stress on you.
Here a few most common reasons that cause holiday stress to help you identify what stresses you:
– Meeting family members at holidays can bring up some unresolved childhood memories which can repeat in the present as families tend to act in old patterns
– Spending holidays alone and feeling lonely and abandoned
– Being a perfectionist and acknowledging every discrepancy during this time of the year
– Putting pressure on yourself to feel cheerful
– Reflecting on your unachieved plans and goals
Dealing with stressors
When you see the stressors as they are, you can do something about it. They are neither your destiny nor reality if you take action and try something different.
We often associate holiday time with family time. A recent divorce, death in a family, long-distance relationships or other circumstances can make you feel lonely. If you feel like spending time with people you can invite neighbors to dinner, go volunteer or reconnect with an old friend. Reach out to someone you want to spend time with.
On the other hand, if you feel like spending some time alone, that is perfectly fine! Holidays are not about family, holidays are about what you make them about.
Let yourself feel what you need to feel. If you are not cheerful, don’t be. Allow your emotions to go through you and do what it feels right for you. You can feel sad in a group of people and you can feel happy alone. Everything you feel is valid and okay.
Separating stressors from yourself
There are some stressors we have no direct influence on. The key is to try to understand them as they are, not as you are.
If your family member will persist to create drama, this doesn’t have to suck you in. Their behaviors don’t define you, nor do their words. Take people and situations as they are. Accept that you don’t have an influence on how people are and make peace with that. Recognize that these are outside stressors that you don’t have to internalize. If they want to act in a certain way, they can and they will, but this doesn’t have to become your reality or your stress.
- if a family member criticizes your parenting, this says more about their low self-esteem and insecurities than it says about your parenting;
- If a friend mocks you about your lifestyle choices, it says more about their uncertainties about their life.
Understand their need to act this way and accept them. You won’t take it as personally then and it won’t affect you as much. Understand and separate their acts from your feelings. You and only you are responsible for what you feel, no matter what others say or do. Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be annoyed or hurt if someone is disrespectful, but always mind how you react.
3. Managing stress in interactions
Here you can find some constructive ways to deal with your emotions and stress when people’s behaviors affect you:
– Listen and evaluate
Hear what they have to say, think about how much truth and meaning you find in their words, and take only what you need to grow. If you find some constructive feedback there, take it. If not, take their words as their reality and their point of view, and make peace with knowing how you really are.
– Take people as they are
Accept them with their behavior, and let yourself feel what you feel. When you understand their behavior, your feelings won’t cause as much stress, as they will only be appropriate feelings that come and go. It is healthy to feel all the emotions.
– Talk about it
Tell people about how you feel. Talking about it could burden you of stress that’s built up inside you. It can also help if people know they are unintentionally hurting you, so they can stop doing that. Since not everyone feels comfortable talking about thinks like that, you can tell someone else when you’re feeling down or write about it on a piece of paper.
4. Take care of yourself
We tend to think about others even more during holidays; what gifts to buy, how to decorate the place for them, how to make them happy, what food to prepare for them… But we forget to take care of our own happiness and feelings! Don’t forget to ask yourself what you would like to eat and what colors or motives would you enjoy in your living room.
Here are some more tips on how you can take care of yourself:
Take some time off
Take brakes to rest and relax. Do something only for you; read a book, go for a walk, watch a movie, take a warm bath, listen to music, sing, buy yourself a present… Don’t overwork into late night. Go to bed and get a good night sleep. There may much to do, but you will do more in less time when you will feel rested and relaxed.
Take care of your health
If you suffer from depression, anxiety or have any health challenges that affect you during the holiday season, don’t push yourself. If you don’t feel like stressing yourself even more with a holiday fuss or if the interactions with people are too much for you, it’s okay to take time for yourself.
You can tell people about your condition and excuse yourself when everything is just too much. If you don’t want to talk about it, you can use some great strategies. When you’re in a room full of people and you get overwhelmed, you can politely get some peace by interacting with a pet, helping in the kitchen, or going to the restroom. If talking to people is too exhausting, try asking them about things they can talk about for a while. This will put the focus away from you.
Relax your body and your mind
You can relieve some of the stress by taking a walk, exercising, meditating, doing yoga, going to a spa, getting a massage, or doing anything that makes you calm. This will not only reduce your stress levels, but it will also help you to manage stressful situations better and keep you at peace.
5. You CAN have it all
They say you can’t have it all, but what does having it all really mean? You can buy the perfect gifts, have a beautifully decorated home, cook a delicious meal and still avoid stress, have a joyful time with yourself, your family or friends. The key is a balance. We talked about priorities and taking care of yourself earlier. You can do everything you want to, as long as you care for your energy levels, time, health and needs.
Think about how much effort do you need to put into actives you chose to do. Maybe gifts don’t have to be wrapped to an inch precisely and the cake you are planning to bake doesn’t have to have 6 floors. By letting go perfectionism, you can enjoy wrapping gifts and preparing meals, instead of obsessing and stressing over it. It will give you more time and allow you to enjoy other activates you look forward to the experience.
Don’t forget to build a snowman and make a snow angel, if you have snow and if it’s something that would draw a smile on your face! If it won’t be snowing where you are, buy play dough and build a snowman. You see, you have the joy inside. It doesn’t matter if there will be snow or people in the same room; you can have it all! You can always make a snowman from different materials or be in a company with your favorite characters on TV or virtually with your gaming friends having the best gaming experience in peace.
Holidays are all about the joy, and joy can mean anything to you. Make a list of the things you want to experience in this year’s holiday season. We encourage you to think outside the box. Forget the musts such as go gift shopping or make a dinner for the whole family. Of course you should do that, if that’s something that makes you happy, but also try to be more creative; Write a winter poem, go take a picture with Santa at the mall, wear two different socks, have a snowball fight or race sleighing down the hill with your friend, bake cookies for a friend in need. Do anything that pops into your mind and fills you with joy.
Holiday stress is practically in the air, but you can dance around it! By making yourself a priority, practicing self-care and new communication skills, you can fill your holidays with laughter, peace, joy, a good night sleep and a relaxation you’ve been waiting for a long time now.
These changes will make your holidays even brighter and more colorful than Christmas lights. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Dare to have the best holidays ever and allow yourself to let go of the holiday stress. Let go other people’s expectations and find your own holiday happiness. You’ll see, the holiday magic will happen inside of you and you’ll start to see it everywhere.