5 Keys to a Stress-Free Holiday Season

Nighttime scene of adult with long hair and red coat holding sparkler with young child with long hair, hat, and capeFor many people, the holiday season is a wonderful time of year. Although the holidays can bring great joy, they come with a lot of potential stressors that can put a damper on the season. Being intentional about what you want out of this holiday season can be significant for you, your family, and relationships. Begin planning now for a joyous and blessed holiday season.

Here are five keys to keeping stress at a minimum and creating meaning during the holidays:

1. Be Values Smart

Think about what is important to you during the holidays. Focusing on what matters most will help you to schedule your time in alignment with your values, potentially reducing stress. Here are some considerations to keep in mind:

  • The purpose of the holidays for you and your family: The holidays, for many people, are a time of celebration and festivities. For some, however, they can be a time of stress, sadness, and loneliness. If you are part of the first group, then great! If you find the holidays can bring on the blues, consider a session or two with a therapist or psychologist to help get you through the season.
  • Staying within your budget: Before you start shopping, decide on a budget and then stick to it. This will help prevent high credit card bills come the first of the year. Many creative ways exist to “give” during the holiday season without breaking the bank. Brainstorm some ideas with your spouse or partner, family, and friends.
  • Holiday traditions: Sometimes people get overwhelmed by thinking they need to do all the family traditions every year. If it feels overwhelming to you this year, pick a couple of family traditions to focus on. For example, if you decorate your house during the holidays, decorating every room might seem like too much this year. Try picking just one or two rooms to focus on. Inviting extended family and friends to help can be fun, too.
  • Keeping memories alive: Honoring loved ones in a special way can be very meaningful. Putting together a photo book or creating a digital movie may be a great way to commemorate your loved one. Writing a letter to that person is another. Talking about how they are loved and missed is another.

2. Keep Family Dynamics in Check

Holidays can be a great time for gathering with family; however, for many, family dynamics are a mixed blessing. Sometimes family members push buttons, causing negative emotions to emerge and past wounds to open. If you feel your family relationships can cause some heightened stress for you, here are some suggestions:

  • Exercise healthy boundaries: Be aware of how family members may cause you stress. Be aware of the topics of conversation to stay away from or limit your time with them.
  • Realize you are not responsible for what people say or do: You may not be able to control what people say or do; however, you do have control and power over how you will respond.
  • When someone is offensive, realize you don’t have to respond in the moment: Take a few minutes away and process your thoughts before responding. You may even want to leave the room to help reduce your stress. Another option is to find another day to address the offense.
  • Don’t let someone steal your joy: Make a choice not to let unhealthy family dynamics stop you from experiencing joy.

Reflecting on a past holiday that was hard for you, ask yourself, “What was stressful about that holiday for me?” Once you identify what caused you the stress, then you can plan accordingly and make healthy choices.

3. Keep in Mind Past Holiday Stressors

Reflecting on a past holiday that was hard for you, ask yourself, “What was stressful about that holiday for me?” Once you identify what caused you the stress, then you can plan accordingly and make healthy choices. Some potentially stressful things for many:

  • Overscheduling: Manage your time well and say “no” to the things that aren’t important to you.
  • Last-minute shopping: Perhaps you wait to do your shopping until the last week before a holiday. Plan and act early.

4. Practice Healthy Habits

The holidays can be full of festivities: parties, work events, and family gatherings. Healthy habits are often difficult to keep. Many people end up splurging, forgo their regular exercise regimes, and don’t get enough rest. These things may contribute to feeling out of balance and heighten stress levels. Make sure your priorities are in order and maintain healthy habits, such as:

  • Get enough sleep: Eight hours is a worthy goal.
  • Eat nutritiously: It’s okay to enjoy the wonderful food during the holidays. Give yourself permission. Just try to not to overindulge, which could leave you feeling lethargic, unwell, or self-critical.
  • Keep up your exercise: Make sure to schedule in some exercise, whether it’s a walk around the block, a trip to the gym, or something else.
  • Continue with spiritual or religious practices: Maintain daily meditation, Bible readings, or prayer devotions.

5. Choose Joy

Planning for a joyful holiday season and being intentional with healthy habits, along with managing stressors and family dynamics, can make all the difference. Maximize your chances of having a healthy and enjoyable holiday season. You can make the choice to celebrate, even if it’s in the form of honoring a loss in your life. Light some candles or put on some holiday music, if you like, and share some love.

© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Angela Bisignano, PhD, therapist in Palos Verdes Peninsula, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • sara

    sara

    December 13th, 2017 at 9:49 AM

    Stress and holidays go hand and hand lol… spending money… being around family… to many parties and eating

  • Mary

    Mary

    December 13th, 2017 at 4:13 PM

    The answer is don’t buy into the holiday craze – pun intended!
    Commercialism ruins the point of holidays. Be true to the origins of the holiday and to your family–it’s never about spending $$

  • Gretchen S

    Gretchen S

    December 14th, 2017 at 12:45 PM

    I have probelms with my family every year at holiday times. we just don’t get along and doesn’t help my parents are divorced so we have to visit 2 different families plus my in-laws. This year I REALLY don’t want to be talking about politics. My dad and his wife are very conservative and will not stop talking about politics and things like that, which I don’t think is festive at all or fun. Seems like every year we argue about something I’m sure this year will be politics :( You said setting boundaries but really they don’t listen

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