The holiday season is one of the most magical times of the year, however, it is also one of the most stressful times. Money and family responsibilities are two of the top sources of stress in America, and the holiday season brings both to the forefront. If you’d like to make the holidays more enjoyable this year, follow these tips on how to manage stress during the holidays.

Recognize Stress Symptoms

Stress can manifest itself in many ways, depending on the individual. Holiday stress is no different than regular stress, and can include symptoms such as:

  • Irritability / shortness with self or others
  • Physical distress such as headaches or stomach aches
  • Feelings of guilt, helplessness, or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Sadness and/or crying
  • Inability to sleep / “racing” thoughts

Note: If these symptoms become overwhelming and/or you feel that you need additional help, contact your trusted medical provider or a mental health professional for more in-depth care. 

Identify High-Risk Situations

Certain scenarios may have a higher impact on your emotions. Knowing what your “high-risk” situations are in your work and personal life will help you manage these occurrences in a more positive way and, thus, reduce your holiday stress load. Think about the following questions and then follow the tips on how to develop a plan for management. 

What could potentially be a high-risk situation in your work life? 

  • Big project deadline
  • Attending too many holiday parties on weeknights
  • Holiday office treats

What could potentially be a high-risk situation in your personal life?

  • Family / in-laws 
  • Travel
  • Hectic schedule
  • No time for exercise or meal prep
  • Too many commitments

Develop a management plan for any of the circumstances that may arise, such as:

  • Choose your social commitments mindfully
  • Communicate with your coworkers and/or family about what is going on
  • Ask for help from colleagues or family members where needed
  • Practice self-care to recharge
  • Give yourself the grace to bow out of a situation without guilt or remorse
  • Seek professional help / guidance for your stress

Exercise Your Stress Away

Use movement to release endorphins and give yourself a mental break from the holiday craziness. 

  • If you have an exercise routine, stick with it.
  • Set a daily step goal.
  • If you’re looking to start an exercise routine, now is the perfect time to experiment because classes and gyms will be packed in January.
  • Try an exercise app or a YouTube workout.
  • Exercise equipment, workout clothes, gym shoes, or memberships make great gifts.

Make Time for Self-Care

It’s imperative to recharge yourself so you will be at your best for your family and your colleagues, especially at this busy time of year. Schedule in routine self-care and if you have to cancel, reschedule it as you would with a doctor or dentist appointment. Anything that you find relaxing and enjoyable can be classified as self-care. It may be as simple as taking 10 minutes per day to practice meditation with an app (I recommend Calm or Headspace), making time to read leisurely, having coffee with a friend, or as extravagant as treating yourself to a spa day. Learn more ways to manage you stress through self-care here

Create Healthy Boundaries

Setting healthy personal boundaries – AKA limits – in work and life will set you up for success. 

  • Time boundaries: set aside time for areas in your life without over committing. For example, if Sunday is your family day, then saying “no” to other social obligations on Sunday is honoring your personal time boundary commitment. 
  • Emotional boundaries: respect how much emotional energy you want to expend. For example, if a friend or colleague constantly uses you as a sounding board for their issues that leaves you drained, setting your emotional boundary would be telling them that you are not in a place to take in their information at this time but may be willing to circle back to the conversation later.
  • Material boundaries: this may not apply to everyone, but for those that it does, defining material boundaries means deciding how much you will lend or give of your material possessions like your clothing, jewelry, car, or money. For example, you may have a relative or friend that is continuously asking to borrow a material item from you. If you do give in to this person, you may gently remind them that you are saying yes “this time” but not necessarily for future instances. Verbalizing clear boundaries for that person prevents resentment over time.

Use Your NO Button

Remember that you do not have to attend every holiday party or event. Do not overbook yourself to the point where your health suffers. Don’t be afraid to say no, or if you do attend, sneak out early. 

Catch Your ZZZs

Regularly sleeping 7-9 hours per night will regulate your hormones and keep your metabolism in check. When you’re sleep deprived, your hormones ghrelin and leptin get disrupted. Ghrelin is the “go” hormone that tells you when to eat, while leptin is the “stop” hormone that tells you when you are full. When these two hormones are out of sync, your body is left in an unbalanced state physically and mentally. Read more about how sleep is more than just beauty rest here.

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Implementing these tips for the holidays will not only help you manage stress but will also bring into focus what is truly important and meaningful to you and that is the real magic of the holiday season!

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