It’s the most wonderful time of year — or is it? Carols and celebrations seem fun and all, but there’s more to the holiday season than just good cheer: there’s also cooking and baking, buying gifts, cleaning to do before guests arrive — you get the picture. And avoiding these stressors can seem impossible when demands are high and time is limited.
Stress can make the most wonderful time of year not-so-wonderful after all. But it doesn’t have to be that way. By recognizing common stressors and avoiding them, you may be able to curb anxiety, ease expectations, and bring back the joy of the holidays.
- ⅓ of Americans say they dislike the commercialism and materialism of the holidays.
- 1 in 5 Americans feels frustrated by gift-buying and other holiday-related expenses.
- In 2017, Americans spent an average of $967 per person during the holiday season on things like gifts, decorations, and food.
- 54% of Americans have said stress has caused them to fight with the people closest to them.
- Stress can cause reactions like fatigue, headache, upset stomach or irritability, nervousness, and lack of energy.
Here are 4 common holiday stressors that are a complete waste of time:
1. Getting Everyone in Your Life a Gift
Some people feel pressured to get a gift for everyone: family, coworkers, their mail carrier, their children’s teachers, their dogs, their dog’s friends, and the list goes on. This doesn’t mean if you want to give someone — or some animal — a gift, you shouldn’t. But you shouldn’t feel pressured to do so.
Buying a lot of gifts in pursuit of holiday happiness just isn’t realistic for most people’s wallets, and it actually creates more stress. Trying to curb the amount of spending — and amount of time shopping — can make the holiday season easier.
So, how can you do that? Make a list of the people you’re buying a gift for and decide if you’re doing it because you want to or because you feel pressured to. Narrow that list down to people you want to get gifts for.
You may also want to consider doing group gifts — such as buying one gift for an entire family — or a secret gift exchange with a group of friends so that you don’t all feel the pressure to buy a gift for everyone in your group.
And remember that gifts can be shared experiences, too. Take your child to a sporting event or bring coffee to your child’s teacher. These moments make lasting memories, which gifts may not be able to do.
2. Breaking the Bank on Everything Holiday-Related
About 62% of Americans report feeling stressed about money. With the added expenses related to the holidays — decorations, gifts, travel — this time of year can be even more financially stressful.
Knowing how you’re spending your money can highlight where you might be able to tighten your purse strings. By tracking your spending, you may be able to cut some things out. It’s also helpful to make a holiday spending plan and consider where your money is going. Then, you can space out major expenses so you — and your bank account — don’t get drained.
There are also little things you can do to decrease spending: opt for DIY decorations rather than spending tons of money at the store and ask friends and family to bring dishes to share when you host a meal. If you’re really in a pinch, don’t be afraid to say no to things that won’t fit your budget.
3. Feeling Overwhelmed About Lack of Time and High Expectations
Hosting or attending holiday parties, shopping for gifts, cooking for guests — how do you fit everything into the holiday season? The simple answer is that maybe you can’t. We all have a perfect vision of what the holiday season should look like, but when reality sets in and doesn’t live up to these expectations, you can start to feel stressed.
Keep things in perspective during this season. Recognize that you can’t attend all of the events you’re invited to, you may not be able to see all of your loved ones during this short period of time, and your house may not be the best decorated on the block.
But remember: the holiday season is just one part of your entire year. Why not spread that good cheer across all 12 months of the calendar? You’ll have time to see loved ones after things settle down, and there are plenty of other occasions throughout the year to celebrate.
You may also feel pressured to cater to all of your family and friends’ needs. Remember that you are only one person, and you can only accomplish so much. Carve out some “you” time to de-stress: take a long walk, get a massage, or read a new book. These solo experiences are just as important as time with loved ones.
4. Dealing with Difficult Family Members
The holidays tend to mean lots of family time, which can be stressful. You may have strained relationships with certain family members, whether it’s because you don’t share the same beliefs or you’ve had past arguments that make your relationship tense. But there are ways to avoid feeling overwhelmed when talking to these family members.
Avoid uncomfortable situations by being proactive. Prepare yourself for these conversations by acknowledging to yourself why it is that you feel a certain way toward them and trying to recognize where that feeling comes from. For instance, if you know you don’t get along with someone because you have different political views, resist the urge to bring up the subject of politics.
Then, you can plan accordingly. Schedule activities that are fun, enjoyable, and make you laugh. And you can decide where to draw the line, too, by saying no to situations that may lead to more tension.
If you do end up in an uncomfortable situation with a family member, keep in mind that disagreeing with loved ones is okay. Just because you have different beliefs doesn’t mean you don’t care about one another.
Try to remain calm during these conversations and de-escalate the situation whenever possible. Take a deep breath or change the topic. And if all else fails, walk away. Know when to end the conversation to avoid making things worse.
Remember What the Holiday Season is All About
The holidays are a season to be thankful, to bring joy to others, to share love. Despite all of the stressors of the season, the majority of Americans say they look forward to spending time with friends and family. Remember what the holidays are for so that you can truly enjoy the season’s cheer.
Got questions about how to manage stress over the holidays? Call (785) 270-4440 to set up an appointment with a Stormont Vail primary care provider.