4 Ways to Survive the Holiday Season
It’s that time of year again, when holiday stress puts strain on the most well-adjusted person. Even without a holiday, Americans annually face longer work-weeks, higher expenses, more traffic and less time for everything that makes life more pleasant. Despite all our often well-meaning attempts to make the holiday season “magical” or meaningful, the additional stress and expectations, threaten to put most people over the edge.
A Consumer Reports study of more than 1,000 adults conducted last year asked respondents to rank their holiday pain points. Sixty-four percent of those surveyed named crowds and long lines as their top stressor. Respondents also named:
- Experiencing the aggressive or thoughtless driving of fellow shoppers in shopping centers (55 percent)
- bad traffic (54 percent)
- weight gain (35 percent)
- fake holiday cheer (34 percent)
- and the debt caused by holiday shopping and expenses (32 percent)
According to Harvard Medical School, stress can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease, and should be avoided at all cost. It can dampen the immune system, increase susceptibility to colds and can contribute to asthma, digestive disorders, cancer, and other health problems.
How to reduce holiday stress
On the bright side, Harvard researchers also say that you can help control your body’s response to stress with exercise and meditation, both of which invoke the relaxation response. Mindfulness–or staying in the present moment—is also a great stress buster, they say.
The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests these tips for managing holiday stress.
- Strengthen social connections. Strong social relationships are essential for navigating life’s challenges. APA says to take the holidays as a good opportunity to reconnect with positive people in your life. Don’t shy away from accepting help and support from family and friends—this can help a lot to relieve stress. Also, volunteering at a local charity on our own or with family can be bonding for these relationships, while at the same time creating an opportunity to make new friends; and it takes the focus off yourself, improving not only your spirits, but the spirits of those you help.
- Set reasonable expectations. Instead of trying to take on everything, identify only the most important holiday tasks and take small concrete steps toward accomplishing them.
- Keep things in perspective. Remember that, on the whole, the holiday season is short. So, keep the big picture in mind. Ask yourself: what’s the worst thing that could happen this holiday?, “Our greatest fears may not happen and, if they do, we can tap our strengths and the help of others to manage them,” APA says. “There will be time after the holiday season to follow up or do more of things we’ve overlooked or did not have the time to do during the holidays.”
- Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings during the holiday season. By keeping your mind and body healthy, you “are primed to deal with stressful situations when they arise,” APA says.