I love the holiday season but I always seem to get so stressed thinking about it all: family, preparation for parties, spending money on gifts and food, traveling in the cold and the snow, finding time for myself…I’m worried I end up so anxious and tired that I won’t even enjoy it! HELP!
Hey there, Nooshin here. You’re definitely not alone when it comes to the concern about holiday stress. The holidays, although a wonderful time to be with friends and family, can also be anxiety-provoking for all the reasons you already listed. Add to those worries about food choices, painful memories of loved ones who aren’t present, and relationship conflict that can spoil a gathering and, well, the holidays can be tough!
Here are seven tips on how to make the upcoming joyous season a little less stressful:
- Stick to a budget: Before you go out shopping for gifts and food, set a budget for yourself and stick to it! Homemade gifts and donations to charity are also appreciated by loved ones (and don’t need to break the bank!).
- Plan ahead: Plan ahead which days you’ll shop, when you’ll see friends and family, and keep to-do lists to help keep you on-track and feel prepared.
- Be open about your feelings with supports: Identify a friend or family member you can be open with about how you’re feeling and try to have one person at each event that can be a support to you if you’re having a more difficult time.
- Learn to say no: If you feel like you have too much on your plate, say no! Friends and family should understand if you’re not able to make it to every gathering. It’s better to take care of yourself than to be physically present but mentally stressed.
- Reach for ritual and routine: Seeking comfort in the familiar routines and rituals of the holiday season is a helpful way to soothe anxiety or sadness. Surrounding ourselves with what is familiar and meaningful, and that connects us to positive memories of holidays past, increases feelings of stability in hectic times.
- Take a breather: Make time for yourself through rest and self-care. Intentionally setting aside 15 minutes alone, taking a walk, or even reading a book, can help you decompress.
- Seek out professional help: If your feelings of stress and anxiety don’t seem to subside, seek out a mental health professional to get help from someone to guide you down a less stressful path.
Hopefully some of these tips will help you feel less overwhelmed and more at peace. The holidays are meant to be about friends, family and gratitude. May we all strive to be more mindful of our own needs and those of others, present in the moment to invite genuine connection, and give thanks for the gifts in our lives.
This post was written by Nooshin Kiankhooy, LCPC, an individual counselor and eating disorder specialist at Emily Cook Therapy in Bethesda, MD.