Not only are the holidays during the pandemic especially stressful, many the ways with which we would normally cope – meeting friends for a drink, spending time with family, traveling for a getaway – are not options this year.
With some practical tips, you can minimize or even prevent the stress that accompanies the holidays and hopefully end up enjoying the season more than you might’ve thought you would.
Tips to prevent holiday stress:
1. Acknowledge your feelings.
We have this unrealistic expectation that the holiday season is supposed to be this magical time when everyone is holly and jolly and the world is a better place. If it’s hard to get in the holiday spirit this year, know that it’s ok to feel that way! You can't force yourself to be happy just because the holidays are here. Acknowledge that it’s ok to feel sad or anxious during the holiday season.
2. Create new traditions.
Traditions are important, and not being able to uphold some of those traditions this year can be incredibly difficult. Choose a few to hold on to and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children or other relatives can't come to your home, find new ways to celebrate together, such meeting virtually on a video call. Host a game of online bingo, have a virtual scavenger hunt, or even take your ugly sweater party online this year. Apps like WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger and more make it easy to connect groups, even when you can’t be together physically. Even though your holiday plans may look different this year, you can still find ways to celebrate.
3.Take the Stress Out of Gift-Giving.
Let go of the idea that you need to give the perfect gift or that you need to go into debt to show people how much you care. Here are some tips to take the stress out of gift-giving this year:
- Before you do your gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend, then stick to your budget! Use an app to help you keep track of everyone on your list, your budget for those people, and the gifts you purchase.
- Give homemade gifts in place of store-bought gifts. They’re more meaningful, anyway! Gift the chef in your family their very own handmade recipe box. Give the friend who could use some pampering a snowball bath bomb. Give someone whose nostalgic for the 90s a koosh ball pillow!
- If you usually buy for everyone in your family or friends group, suggest implementing a Secret Santa gift exchange to make it easier for everyone.
- Donate to a charity in a friend or family member’s name. One with a cause that you know is important to them.
Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, connecting with friends and other activities. Consider whether you can shop online for any of your items. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list, which will help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients.
5. Learn to say no.
Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity. If it's not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time. Just make sure to make at least a little time for connecting with friends and your community.
6. Don't abandon healthy habits.
Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Try these suggestions:
- Have a healthy snack before holiday meals so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Include regular physical activity in your daily routine.
- Try deep-breathing exercises, meditation or yoga.
- Avoid excessive tobacco, alcohol and drug use.
- Be aware of how the information culture can produce undue stress and adjust the time you spend reading news and social media as you see fit.
8. Seek professional help if you need it.
Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are serious concerns. If you are seriously worried about your mental health, contact a health care professional immediately.
Take control of the holidays
Don't let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress they can bring. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or too many demands on your time, so you can combat them and can find peace and joy during the holidays.