8 worst stresses during the holidays and how to cope with them
What are the most common stresses during the holidays? From family politics to FOMO, here’s how to cope with holiday stress. “Because the holiday season often requires us to keep track of and pay attention to a greater number of responsibilities than usual,” explains Harvard Medical, “the brain’s prefrontal cortex goes into overdrive.
Dealing with holiday stress is a real thing, according to a recent medical study. “The end-of-year holidays are certainly a happy time for most of us, but the stress of the season puts many of us on such an edge that we wish it would all just go away.” These stresses during the holidays are far too common.
It’s not too late: 7 Ways to Survive the Office Christmas Party & the Silly Season
Stress during the holidays can hit us in many different ways, and from many different people, at many different times; it pays to be aware of what stresses during the holidays could potentially trigger you; that way you can be on guard and protect yourself from any holiday depression or angst that you are already worried about.
#1: Family pressures and politics
As our families grow and extend, things can get complicated. Often family plans clash, or people have to travel long distances during the holidays so that everyone can catch up. This can cause significant stress. Family members can also rub us up the wrong way, and cause rifts, disputes and upsets because of issues that have been building up for a while.
What to do about it: If you feel stressed around your (or someone else’s) family, then take a short break. A five minute walk is ideal but even a visit to the bathroom to splash some water on your face will help. Some stresses during the holidays just seem to happen.
#2: Not enough time to do it all
Do you feel that the days are getting shorter as we travel towards the end of the year? Well, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, you’re right – the days are getting shorter! Often we are trying to cram so much in towards the end of the year; work, parties, family time, gift buying and holiday planning. There is just so much to do. When there are stresses during the holidays, you can really feel them take hold.
What to do about it: If you feel really pressed for time then keep a daily activity log or a really solid to do list. Compartmentalise your activities into “bubbles” and read about my “bubble theory” for dealing with stress and busyness.
#3: Feeling broke and the “money purge”
The bills don’t stop arriving over the holiday season and there are so many extra things to buy. You probably have to get gifts for many people, and maybe buy special food, or spend extra on entertainment, work parties and more. All these extra costs can start to stress us out and make us feel as if things are getting out of control.
What to do about it: Try to put things into perspective, and give yourself some time to let go of stress about money. Hopefully you have made some plans in advance, but if you haven’t, try not to rack up credit card debt and buy too many things you don’t need. Check out my post on how to fix your relationship with money, and commit to healing. Then stresses during the holidays might not seem so bad, once dealt with.
Check out: Why do you feel stressed at Christmas?
#4: Being disappointed in people and things
Often Christmas and the holiday season can come with so much expectation. We expect things to be rosy and perfect, and when things don’t go our way, we get even more upset than we would at other times, because of the build-up. Even things like not being catered too for a family dinner (maybe you are vegan), or getting a thoughtless gift can set us up for disappointment.
What to do about it: Try not to make the day a build-up, and take the day in stages; morning, lunch, afternoon, evening, and focus on the good things that come out of the day, even if it’s as simple as a conversation with an elderly relative or child. If you get a terrible gift, say, “thanks very much” and sell the thing on eBay, or give it to charity. Don’t feel bad!
#5: Cramming your workload
One thing that can cause a lot of stress is the fact that people are not often given work covers now; they are simply expected to cram their workload into a shorter space of time, and even monitor things while on holiday. This can cause upsets and extra stress, particularly if something goes wrong at work while you are meant to be relaxing.
What to do about it: Where possible, organise for someone to oversee your work, or parts of your work, while you are away. Avoid checking emails and messages and clock off by turning off your phone. Even though this is getting harder and harder. It is possible. Read about why your smartphone is a trap.
#6: Holiday and vacation overcrowd
In some parts of the world, the holiday season is where the biggest summer breaks occur, and all the school holidays. Everywhere you go, there are crowds; in the supermarkets, shopping malls and play parks. The holiday season can feel like a very busy and overcrowded time, where people might have to compete for the last Transformer toy on the shelf, or “making do” with a smaller turkey because all the biggest ones have been sold.
What to do about it: Plan to spend some time ‘away from it all’ if you can. Hop into the car (try to avoid holiday traffic too!) and head into nature for a day or two so you can reconnect with those that really matter to you. If that doesn’t work, lock your doors, put on your favourite movies and chill inside.
No one can do everything at Christmas, and many people experience FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out. If you are in a relationship, maybe this means you won’t get to see both sides of the family, or maybe you won’t be able to afford that flight to see those relatives in another city. This might make some people feel a little down.
What to do about it: Once you have made your decisions about what to do and who to see, let it go. Don’t endlessly ruminate about how you might be able to cram more into your schedule; let go and make peace with the plans you’ve put together. Arrange to see important people in the New Year, when things are less hectic.
#8: Feeling sad, lonely and depressed
“Holiday blues are a pretty common problem despite the fact that as a society, we see the holidays as a joyous time,” says Doctor Rakesh Jain. “Many people feel depressed, which can be due to the increased stress that comes with the holidays.” Yes, even though it seems counterintuitive, many people end up lonely and depressed at Christmas.
What to do about it: There are many resources online that allow you to connect in a multitude of ways with people. Near and far. Start your won traditions and learn how to nurture yourself properly. If you feel really sad or lonely, then make sure you seek proper help.
Any stresses during the holidays can be fixed
Try to take this busy time of year with a grain of salt, and take events as they come. I liked an expert I saw on TV lately who said he utters the phrase “water off a duck’s back” to himself over and over again, to remind him that what seems terrible and stressful now, will likely be fine in the long term.
“Do you need to nurture yourself a bit more? I need to nurture myself. I have had lots of happy moments in the last few years, but lots and lots of sadness too. Life goes up and down.”