Look at virtually any holiday greeting card and you’ll see images of families gathered together, smiling as they engage in their most cherished and time-honored traditions.
While there’s no denying that this time of year is often synonymous with spending time reconnecting with loved ones, the reality is that it often comes with a bit of stress, too.
In fact, NBC News previously reported how one survey found that 45 percent of 1,000 people polled wanted to skip the holidays altogether as a way of ridding themselves of the financial pressures that arrive with the festivities. Research conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner expands on this topic further, finding that lower-middle-income individuals are affected by holiday stress at a higher rate due to financial constraints. In addition, women tend to be burdened more than men by increased duties surrounding typical holiday celebrations.
While some level of stress is normal and doesn’t present a problem, having too much can create a negative impact on a person’s health.
Stress and its effects on health
The American Psychological Association notes that stress has both physical and mental implications if it goes on for an extended length of time. For instance, someone who is under a great deal of stress during the holiday months may notice that they have more headaches, colds, or overall poorer health—even putting them at a greater risk of a heart attack, or worse.
Stress also has a way of appearing through increased feelings of anger, frustration, fear, and a number of other emotionally uncomfortable responses. This makes finding ways to relieve holiday stress critical to health and happiness during what is supposed to be a magical, love-filled time of year.
Holiday stress reduction tips
Whether you’re concerned about your own stress level this holiday season or you’re trying to help your patients get through the next few months with their mental and physical health intact, here are some tips that can help:
- Plan ahead. One of the biggest complaints heard around the holidays is how they’ve “crept up,” as if they suddenly appeared without any warning at all. However, they do come at the same time every year, which means that planning for them is a great way to reduce that “Oh my goodness; they’re here!” feeling of panic and dread.
- Set (and follow) a budget. To help reduce the financial constraints of buying gifts, increased food bills, and sometimes expensive travel, it helps to set a budget and place limits on how much you’ll spend. Money Crashers says that this involves considering all of your financial obligations during the holidays (don’t forget gift-wrap and postage costs), setting realistic expectations with those around you, and shopping early to take advantage of great deals. Of course, the important thing is to actually adhere to the guidelines you’ve set, enabling you to enjoy the holiday season without feeling as if you had to cash in your lifetime savings to do it.
- Take a breather. Because holidays are consistent with spending more time with family and friends, sometimes you can lessen stress levels with some much-needed time alone. This allows you to unwind in a way that is pressure-free, making it easier to return to the ones you love with a feeling of renewed sense of peace. Some me-time ideas that can rejuvenate your soul include getting a massage, doing yoga, or sitting with a good book and a warm cup of tea. It doesn’t matter so much what you do as long as it’s an activity that reduces your individual stressors.
- Keep up your positive behaviors. With stress often comes the desire to stray from healthy behaviors by eating all the goodies you can find, drinking more cocktails than your normal limit, and whatever vice you have been known to find solace in. However, it is these same behaviors that can make it harder to get through the holiday season with your body and mind intact. Therefore, take the time to choose good-for-you foods and get in an exercise session or two. This will help you feel better not only now, but the rest of the year as well.