Don’t Be Afraid of the Holiday Stress Monster

Dec 22, 2022 | Friends and Home Life, Stress Management

10 Ways to Deal with Stress this Season

Have you been impatient or short tempered lately?  Feeling those familiar tight neck muscles and clenched jaw?  How about headaches or trouble falling asleep?  If so, take a look at your stress level.  Did you know that when you are experiencing increased stress you have cortisol and other stress hormones shooting through your body, sending you into fight or flight mode?  Your pulse and blood pressure may rise and you may feel agitated.  Anxiety may seem overwhelming, and your temperament may change.  Not a fun way to live, and it puts your health and peace of mind at risk.  Stress is inevitable, but when it begins to show up as physical symptoms or it impacts your relationships with others, it’s time to find some new ways of preventing stress and handling it differently when it does occur.

Here are TEN (10) things to try when you are stressed:

  1. Acknowledge that the next few weeks may be stressful and have a plan. Look back to our recent blog on setting reasonable expectations for yourself this holiday season.
  2. Let go of the idea of the “perfect holiday.” The holiday is what you make it, and there is no such thing as perfection.  When you can accept that nothing is perfect and that it isn’t your responsibility to make sure everyone around you has the best holiday ever, you lighten your load and can breathe easier.
  3. Manage your schedule so you have time for yourself and the things that are important to you. Hopefully you have chosen one or two special activities for the month and declined the other invitations.  Making time for yourself to recharge your batteries and relax is crucial when stress is on the rise.
  4. Stay in touch with the supportive people in your life. Positive connection is key to feeling supported and loved, and it allows you to support and love others in the same way.  Instead of going to an event where there will be toxic people, steer clear and make a date with someone emotionally healthy.
  5. Try yoga, tai’ chi, qi gong, guided imagery, or deep breathing exercises. The focused intention during these types of exercise promotes peace and calm.  Exercise also boosts serotonin levels in the brain, leading to decreased stress and anxiety.  For some more active exercise, go sledding, skating, or start a family snowball fight.  Build snow forts, or go play in the local park.  Check out the local trails, try snow shoeing, or do some cross country skiing.
  6. Take care of your body by making healthy and nutritious food and beverage choices. Drink lots of water, and get plenty of sleep.  When your body is well-fueled and feels good it is easier to handle stress.
  7. Don’t engage in no-win situations. If you know that talking with Uncle Ed is just a prelude to hurt feelings and stress, respond with kindness then excuse yourself from the situation.  The same goes for other folks who can push your buttons. If someone tries to egg you on, just remember that you don’t have to attend every fight you are invited to.
  8. When you are stressed out, give voice to it in a healthy way. Instead of bottling it up or pretending everything is fine, tell someone how you are feeling and process the reasons.  If there is something you can do to improve the situation, do it.  If it is out of your control, accept it as such and move on.
  9. Don’t overdo it with food, alcohol, or money. It is easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit, but when you take in too much or go outside of your financial comfort zone there is always regret and a sense of feeling bad about yourself.  Make the best choices you can to avoid the self-blame game later on.
  10. Spend some quiet time each night before bed thinking about the things you are grateful for. Use calming music, meditation, or positive self-talk to unwind and get your mind and body ready for bed.  Honor yourself for how the day went, regardless of what happened, and know that you can handle anything that comes your way when you work to take care of yourself.

Stress happens. Learning how to prevent it and reduce its impact when you do experience it is a powerful tool for self-care.  If you find yourself frustrated in a line of traffic or at the checkout in a store, use the time to mentally list off the good things about your day and what you are grateful for.  Say a prayer for the people around you who are getting angry or upset.  Recite a comforting poem or the lyrics to your favorite song.  Notice the small details around you and look for something to make you smile.  Breathe deeply and know that you are right where you are supposed to be at that moment.  You’re doing a great job!