'Tis almost the season! The holidays are an exciting time, but we all know these special occasions can be just as stressful as they are joyful (if not more). Many people go through the ups and downs of unresolved family conflicts, loneliness, and money or travel stress. This can often lead to an increase in stress, which gives us unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as overeating and over drinking.
If you’re dreading the idea of facing holiday stress, worry not: there are ways to stay calm and peaceful during this time.
Get organized with a holiday plan
For most people, the holidays mean taking a break from work or school; but that doesn’t mean that it’s all rest and relaxation. Between shopping for presents, planning festive activities, or cooking lavish meals, our calendars can be even more overwhelming than usual.
As usual, having a plan can help you cope with all the stress. Make a “holiday list” that includes things like gifts to buy, ingredients for holiday meals, scheduled family visits. You should also make a “personal list” with self-care activities that will help you stay grounded.
If you aren’t spending the holiday season with your family and are afraid of feeling lonely or bored, you can also benefit from planning out your time. Manage your downtime by focusing on your personal improvement or by giving yourself time to relax and reset.
Whether you're going home for the holidays or not, planning out your time can help you minimize your stress.
You can fill up your schedule with things you usually never have the time to do: finally read the book that’s been collecting dust on your shelf or finish your long-overdue home improvement project. Perhaps you’ve been wanting to try out a new hobby, like rock climbing or learning how to bake! You can find out more about the benefits of self-care and “staycations” in this blog.
Mental prep for the family
If you’re going home for the holidays, you’ll probably meet up with relatives you don’t usually see during the year. While they might be happy to see you, and have innocent intentions, their questions can feel invasive and overwhelming. “How’s your love life?” “Are you married yet?” “When are you going to get a ‘real’ job?”
Stress also arises when we’re dealing with toxic relatives. Maybe you’ll face a grandparent from “another generation” who makes casual racist or sexist comments.
In these scenarios, it’s tricky to find a good balance between keeping the peace and standing up for your morals.
If you know that your family gatherings tend to be tense, brace yourself before entering the situation. Give yourself a little mental “pep talk.” You know what to expect from your family: the only way to change the outcome is to change your reaction. Answer their questions as politely and warmly as you can. After all, the holidays are a time to spread kindness. Remember that their questions and comments don’t reflect who you are as a person, and that you have nothing to prove.
But if your relatives are clearly not respecting your boundaries, it’s important to say "no." Sometimes no answer is the best answer. When you feel like you’re about to lose your patience, excuse yourself and go to the bathroom -- or anywhere you can be alone. Take a minute to calm down, and come out once you’re ready.
Remember your healthy habits
While holidays can provide us with a well-deserved break from our regular routine, they also wreak havoc on our healthy habits. Let’s be honest with ourselves: as much as we love those glorious holiday meals, we’re not as fond of feeling too bloated to move after dinner. Overeating puts a lot of unnecessary stress on our bodies, as our digestive system work harder to digest the heavy foods we consume.
We’re not suggesting you skip the mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce altogether, but it’s a good idea to eat slowly and mindfully. Listen to your body’s natural signs of hunger and satiety. Eating slowly also has the added advantage of giving you more time to truly savour your food.
If meditation is a part of your daily self-care routine, don’t let staying at a relative’s house stop you. If you normally work out an hour each day but no longer have the time, you can cut it down to thirty minutes: a little is better than nothing.
Even if we feel overwhelmed, the holidays are an important time to maintain our routine. That time helps us keep our peace of mind, and that peace can help us stay sane while dealing with disgruntled mall employees or difficult relatives.
The holidays should be about spending time with friends and family, decompressing from work, or just enjoying our own company. Don’t let the extra pressure of shopping, family dinners, or travel keep you from making the best of this special time.