The holidays are notoriously stressful. There are events to attend, kids out of school, parties to host, and financial stress as the cherry on top. Research shows that 88% of Americans feel increased stress during the holidays. Throw in a global health pandemic and crazy inflation rates and this holiday season is primed to be potentially the most stressful yet.
But what if it didn’t have to be?
Refinery Counseling Center is made up of a team of 6 mental health experts, and this holiday season we are bringing you three evidence-based tips to decrease stress and get the most joy out of your holiday experience.
3 Tips to Help With Holiday Stress
1. More Doesn’t Mean Better:
The holiday season is SO MUCH FUN. There are work parties, holiday programs at the kids’ schools, special events in the community, church proceedings, and more family gatherings than at any other time of year. As exciting and enticing as each event may seem, the most important thing you can do for yourself and your family is to set a limit and honor the limit.
The limit or identified boundary will be different for each family depending on a number of factors, including the size of the family, the typical schedule, whether or not kids are involved, etc. With young kids, it is often wise to limit special events to weekends and keep a normal routine during the week. For families with older children, you may find that you have more flexibility with later bedtimes, or even a special event or two during the week. As tempting as it may be to want to “do it all,” everyone involved will enjoy themselves more if they are rested, fed, and able to be fully present in whatever event has gotten your “yes.”
2. The Mind-Body Connection is Legit- For You and Your Kids:
Gingerbread men., sugar plums, holiday cocktails, oh my! So many of our holiday celebrations are synonymous with treats and alcohol. Holiday meals feature large servings and heavy pours. Work clients or family members may send cookie tins or boxed candies as holiday gifts. Many holiday traditions center themselves around shared meals and specialty cocktails. Or eggnog. Or spiked cider (you get the drift).
So much research is available about the link between our minds and our body. When we aren’t fueling our bodies well, we can’t expect our mind and our mental state to be well either. And that’s not to say that a special treat or beverage can’t be enjoyed during the holidays- certainly it can! But if the goal is mental wellness, then moderation is key. There are many ways to be proactive about caring for your mind and body during the holidays, such as going on a daily walk, tracking water intake, limiting sugar consumption, and implementing stretch or cardio intermittently. Small, intentional habits can yield powerful results.
3. Expectations Will Make or Break You:
Many people go into the holidays with the best of intentions. But even the self-imposed pressure can be overwhelming. Are the teachers going to like their gifts? Is the event planning complete? Is the meal going to impress the family? Was the donation large enough to the holiday charity? Will the gifts arrive in time? Will anyone be sick for the trip back home? Will grandma or grandpa be able to travel? Are the kids in enough holiday camps or activities? Did the company make enough to give end-of-year bonuses… the lists could go on and on.
Slow down. Remember the reason for the season. If a task or event seems overwhelming, practice a moment of gratitude to ground yourself and refocus. Ask for help and delegate. Communicating clear expectations to everyone involved in an event will help set the scene so that everyone can enjoy it to the fullest.
If you need help, assign responsibilities. If you need time, specify how much time you need to set aside prior to the task. If you need hands, recruit them early on. Bringing young kids? Pack snacks. Taking a few minutes on the front end to prepare for whatever is at the center of your stress will allow you to prepare and communicate your needs before reaching a stressor or breaking point.
In the end, all of the tips that will help you thrive during the holidays are going to be rooted in mindfulness. Remembering the reason for the season and practicing gratitude will help reduce stress and bring more enjoyment to the holiday season for you and your family.
When stress becomes chronic or overwhelming, you may be experiencing clinical mental health struggles. Refinery Counseling Center is a team of licensed professionals who specialize in mental health treatment for children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families. If you believe your anxiety or seasonal depression may be more than just stress, please don’t hesitate to reach out to learn more about mental health treatment options.