If you find your anxiety levels spiking around the festive season, you may be dealing with holiday stress. The holidays are stressful. This is an exceptionally busy period, we are bombarded by family members and plans. If you tend to get overwhelmed during the festive season, you need a strategy for managing holiday stress. 

In this post, I’ll share my top tips and recommendations for reducing holiday stress. If every year you find yourself thinking, “Christmas stresses me out!” then this post is for you! 

How Stressful Holidays Can Affect Us Negatively 

The holidays can be a very joyful and exciting time, and they can also bring added stress. This season is a time to gather with friends and family, build happy memories together, and enjoy traditions. Yet, because there are so many activities added to an already busy life, it is easy to become overwhelmed, anxious, tired, and worried.

As the wheel of time turns, our calendars always end in the holiday season. Since it happens every year, you would think we would have the routine down pretty well by now. Yet, for many of us, the festive season sneaks up and takes us off guard just as surely as a well-kept secret!

It is exciting to get into the holiday spirit, busily filling our calendars with parties, events, celebrations, visiting relatives, shopping, and decorating the house. Meanwhile those very activities can cause our nerves to unravel and our tempers to flair.

While we scurry between destinations and try to remember all that needs to be done, we tend to overeat, drink more than usual, skip our workouts, and teeter near the edge of losing our minds! 

If you are ready to break old patterns, and shake things up so you can get a different result than you have experienced in the past, here are a few holiday stress management suggestions to consider.

Tips for Stress Free Holiday Seasons

1. Remember what is valuable to you

Create a list entitled “My Goals for this Holiday Season”.  If you have a spouse or children, you may suggest that they, too, make a list. Each person’s list is personal and may not be the same as anyone else’s list. 

It may include entries such as “create positive memories with extended family members”, or “find opportunities to open communication with my mother.” Your goals may include working out no fewer than three times a week, or refraining from indulging in too much alcohol.

Keep the list close. Read it daily as you start your day. Then, if you begin to feel as if the holiday stress feelings start to rise,  if you are being rushed or overwhelmed, or if a relative becomes irritating or starts an argument,  it will be easier to be clear about your personal goals at that moment.  

You can stop, take a breath, and ask yourself which response is aligned with your values––to win an argument or to love your family.

2. Honor yourself and your closest loved ones

Create boundaries for yourself and allow your spouse and children to create their own as well. 

Communicate with each other about this so everyone is clear and can provide support and cooperation.

If attending an event will create undue stress and strain, or is counter to your values, be clear about it and take steps to maintain the joy in your life and in your memories of the season. Also, be sure to block off time in your schedule to rest and regroup your energies and thoughts. Setting aside time for yourself is a great way to cope with holiday stress. 

3. Be present

The best holiday gift is to be present. Focus on the creation of positive memories, community of friends and family, and the spirit of the season rather than on whether things are perfect or other distractions. Give attention to your loved ones, to your experiences, and to the spirit of who you are and the reason you are celebrating this holiday.

4. Recite a mantra

It is helpful to have a mantra to return to when you need to realign your energy. I suggest writing the mantra down on the same paper as your values and goals. This way you can always refer to your mantra whenever you start to feel stress during the holidays. 

Here are a few mantras that you can use to find some holiday stress relief. Repeat after me.

  • I can let go of the need to be perfect. I will do the best I can and enjoy the quirkiness of however that turns out. I am a work in progress just like everyone else. I can see that no one around me is perfect, and I love plenty of them just the same. They will love me even better when I can relax more. 
  • I can let go of undue stress. I can move with grace and ease through each activity, knowing this is my life and every moment can create a memory to cherish. When I relax I am more pleasant and creative, energized and fun to be around (even for myself).
  • I can let go of guilt. Guilt merely reminds me that I may not be living up to my own standards. If so, I can make corrections immediately and let go of any guilt. Never do I have to feel guilty for not living up to someone else’s standards. That is their issue to deal with. If someone tries to make me feel guilty, I will simply smile and give them a hug, because they must need it.
  • I can let go of needing to be in control of everything, all the time. It will empower others to allow them to take responsibility and contribute all they can. They will love me for allowing them to feel good about themselves. And it will be entertaining to see how things turn out from the collaboration.
  • I can let go of pleasing everyone all the time. It is a thankless job that disavows who I really am, and only fills me with resentment. I will be kind, considerate, and true to my own self.
  • I can let go of changing others. I know how it feels when someone tries to convince me to change habits, beliefs, or behaviors. I resist until I am ready, and so will they. I can serve as a role model only. When they see how happy, relaxed, self-confident and successful I am, they will want to be more like me…in their own time. If I am not all those things, I will work on myself before I work on them.
  • I can let go of worries. Worrying is a negative imagination that robs me of my energy and my creativity. I will give myself permission to write down my to-do list, move through it as best I can, and then give myself long periods of time to bask in my “worry-free” zone. I will smile, relax, and be in the moment, enjoying the true meaning of the holidays.

I hope these mantras have given you the gift of the ability to smile, relax, and let go.

Case Study: How Dean Had a Stress Free Christmas

Here is a story about Dean, a client of mine, who spent the holidays with his family. 

While the family is generally loving and easy-going, a week of travel stress, coordinating schedules and activities of many people, lingering work stress, and the like, can take a toll on nerves and patience, and lead to regrettable disruptions. As much as anyone may love their family, concentrated time together can bring warm feelings to the “flash point” without much warning!

Taking a moment to catch your breath, hold your tongue, and remember your true values may just circumvent an event that may cause hurt feelings, embarrassment, and lingering regret.

Working with an individual’s personal value system is an integral part of my work and techniques, and an activity frequently used in private sessions in my office. Dean was familiar with this process and his own personal list of values. After his visit with his family, he reported that on more than one occasion he took a few minutes out of his activities to reassess his list, and compare his normal, “knee-jerk” reactions in family situations to what he really wanted to gain as an outcome.

Instead of participating in an escalating battle of wills or engaging in complaints, gossip, or impatience, he focused on his desire to be the change that he always wanted to experience in his family dynamics. He kept his sights set on achieving a supportive, loving, peaceful group experience that would create fond memories for everyone, while encouraging the development of positive goals for the younger members of the family.

Dean reported that the results were better than he had hoped. While clashes and tempers were occasionally evident, the situations were typically resolved much more quickly with little or no lasting damage sustained to the relationships.

He realized a shift was possible, with the influence of only one person turning potentially negative energy into an agreeable result.  As an unsung hero, Dean could be internally proud and satisfied that he had taken the initiative to be the change that he wished for in his family. 

Final Holiday Stress Tips

As the wheel of time spins around, it doesn’t have to be in a circle that returns to the same old patterns and results that have been experienced in the past. We can spiral up to a fresh perspective and achieve a new, improved, outcome.

As you can see, with the right preparation, you can manage holiday stress and have a stress-free holiday. If you follow the recommendations in this post, let me know how your holiday season turned out! 

Wishing you joy, health, and the formation of exquisite memories during this holiday season!

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