The holidays present a mixed bag of emotions for countless Americans. While some find it to be the most enjoyable season, others might experience it more as a stressful few months that simply need to be survived. 

The good news is that while the busyness of the season around you might not change, you do have control over the changes that occur within you. In other words, you can put certain practices and routines into place to help manage stress and give you the chance to peacefully enter into the festivities of the holidays.

Experiencing stress and anxiety during the holidays

In order to get to a discussion of how to manage it, we have to first look at what is causing the stress and anxiety – because without knowing the root cause, there’s no way to fully address what’s going on and properly discover a solution. 

1. Time constraints 

The holidays come to a close eventually, meaning you are likely to feel the pressure of the holiday deadlines. You have to make sure meals are prepared on time, that your shopping is completed before Christmas, you’ve RSVP’d to parties, and so on. This can put a lot of pressure on you and take the joy out of any celebration. 

2. Being overcommitted 

If you have jam-packed your schedule and you are focusing on where you need to be when (not to mention what gifts and/or dishes/desserts need to be prepped ahead of time), you are likely to wear yourself out quickly. 

Holiday parties, hosting family and friends and just the commitments of errands, cooking and baking and household chores can add up quickly and lead you to feeling a lot of anxiety about how you’re going to do it all. 

3. Financial constraints

For those who experience stress from finances, the holidays can be an additional time of financial strain – this is a very real source of anxiety for many people. Hosting parties, gift-giving, obligatory secret Santa exchanges and traveling can add up and make this time of year a hard one on the wallet. 

4. Family conflict 

No one’s family is perfect, and this may be witnessed when families gather together for the holidays. If everyone is feeling some form of holiday stress, and they all come together to celebrate, it’s not uncommon for tension to arise. Additionally, if you know you will be seeing certain family members who are a direct source of stress, this can further increase anxiety. 

5. Perfectionism 

It’s a very real thing that preparing for the holidays can worsen one’s tendency towards perfectionism – this includes wanting to host the perfect party, give the perfect gift, bring the perfect dessert, etc. These self-inflicted expectations often lead to an increase of stress and anxiety and take away from the joy of the season.

Managing holiday stress and anxiety

Once you understand where the stress around the holidays comes from and what events particularly increase your anxiety, you can begin to manage it by implementing certain healthy coping mechanisms. 

1. Set your boundaries 

Without setting good boundaries during the holidays, you might find yourself saying yes to events and parties you have no time for, offering to help in ways you have no energy for and overall depriving yourself of an enjoyable season due to overcommitment. 

In order to prevent this from happening, it’s important to know your boundaries and commit to them. If you can’t make it to an event, don’t be ashamed of saying no; if you have no time to bake one extra pastry for the work party, don’t be embarrassed – you’ll find more peace in kindly saying “no, I don’t have time/energy/money for this” than overcommitting yourself.

2. Manage expectations 

Not everyone is going to be able to afford expensive gifts, attend every party or travel to visit every relative. If you tried to accomplish all this, you’d be left feeling incredibly burnt out and disappointed. 

In order to prevent yourself from feeling this level of emotion, it is important to manage your expectations around the holidays and determine ahead of time what you have time and money for, and what you do not. 

3. Let go of perfectionism 

It is not realistic to expect yourself to host the perfect holiday party, make the perfect dinner or buy the best gift. Give yourself the grace to do the best you can with the time/financial/whatever constraints you’re under, and let the rest go. 

After all, no one should be expecting perfection from you. Once you’re able to release yourself from those expectations, you are likely to be able to more peacefully enter into the joys of the holiday season. 

4. Take care of yourself 

You can’t completely rid the holidays of all their stresses but you can manage the way you handle those stresses by taking good care of yourself. Prioritize getting enough sleep, take time to exercise and stick to nutritious, consistent meals as best as possible. Find time away for yourself, too, like wrapping gifts in your home with your favorite Christmas movie. 

The more you take care of your body in this way, the more energy and patience you’ll have to manage stressful situations. 

Seeking anxiety help during the holidays? 

If you need additional help handling holiday stress and anxiety, contact us online or by calling 724-268-4858 to learn more today.