As we all know, the holiday season can be a very stressful time of the year. Despite all the fun activities and cheer associated with the holidays, the majority of Americans feel overwhelmed and stressed out during the holiday season. In fact, in a study conducted by the American Psychological Association nearly a quarter of Americans reported feeling “extreme stress” during the holiday’s. Additionally, 69 percent of Americans reported feeling stressed by the feeling of having a lack of time, 69 percent were stressed due to financial reasons, and 51 percent reported stress related to gift giving and receiving. The study sampled 2,000 people and surveyed Americans from various regions of the country. The American Psychological Association also discovered a concerning 45% of people living in the United States would rather choose to skip out on the holidays if they could in order to avoid dealing with the stress associated with it all.
There are a variety of reasons why this time of year may cause additional stress and anxiety. In addition to the factors of money, time, and gift buying as previously mentioned, there are plenty of other reasons people tend to find the holiday season particularly stressful. Holiday stress can also be attributed to factors such as family drama, broken relationships, loss of a loved one, travel, taking time off work, and seasonal affective disorder/seasonal depression. Unfortunately, this kind of holiday related stress and anxiety can manifest into physical health symptoms in addition to the mental health symptoms previously mentioned. Some of the physical health issues that could be a result of mental stress could be insomnia, fatigue, loss of appetite, headaches, irritability, difficulty focusing, aching muscles and joints, and poor work performance. Luckily, there some helpful strategies for managing and overcoming holiday related stress in order to avoid these negative side-effects.
Finding ways to help yourself, and the people close to you, cope with holiday stress is vital to maintaining both your mental and physical health. A good first step in eliminating some of the holiday dread you may be experiencing is setting realistic expectations for yourself and those around you. You can accomplish this by acknowledging what is specifically stressing you out. Once you identify the source of your stress you can then assess whether or not your expectations for meeting this goal are realistic. If you discover that the expectations you have set regarding this particular stressor are unrealistic then you can reconstruct a more attainable goal for this particular stressor which will you feel less overwhelmed by it. As far as financial stress related to the holidays goes, setting a budget for gifts and other holiday expenses is a great way to reduce some of the anxiety you may be feeling. Try to look over your finances in advance so you can set a budget that works for you and won’t cause further stress.
Staying active can also be a great way to reduce the stress you may be feeling during this time of the year. Most gyms run holiday promotions for newcomers during the months of December and January, making the holiday season a great time to start a new workout regiment before the end of the year. If you feel like you don’t have time to make it to the gym, try sprinkling in some physical activities throughout your daily routine. For example, if the weather isn’t too cold, you can go for a quick walk, run, or bike ride on your lunch break or after work throughout the week. Doing as little as 30 minutes of physical activity each day has been proven to improve mood and reduce feelings of stress.
Although staying active can help reduce some of your holiday dread, its important to remember to also give yourself plenty of down time. Doing some relaxing activities you enjoy can also be a very helpful strategy for coping with the stress of the holidays. This could be doing yoga, meditating, going on a nature walk, or watching your favorite movie. Anything that you enjoy doing and that isn’t strenuous on your body can be considered a down time activity. Taking this kind of rest for yourself will help you unwind and properly process any anxiety or worry you may have regarding your holiday plans and can help you achieve some much needed rest and relaxation. The holidays can be a rough time of the year for many people but with these coping strategies you can negate many of the anxious feelings you may be experiencing. It’s important to remind yourself to focus on the positives of the holiday season and all of the great things you can be thankful for in your life. Enjoy your holiday season as best you can and remember that your mental health is always your number one priority!