Common Holiday Stresses—and How to Calm Them

Kelly K. James

Does anyone ever have enough time to prepare for the holidays? It seems like the season for carols, Christmas decorations, and gift giving arrives long before anyone is truly ready. And after a few rushed, jam-packed weeks, it’s all over, leaving you with little to show for it except credit card bills and a few extra pounds. 

It’s not surprising that many of us find the holidays stressful. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, 31 percent of men and 44 percent of women say the holidays increase their stress level. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Here are five of the biggest holiday stressors and how to overcome them in healthy ways: 

Holiday Stressor No. 1: Overeating

Nonstop parties and family get-togethers can make it easy to put on weight and fall into bad eating habits. Your best bet? Recognize that you will want to indulge, and do so mindfully, like leaving room for a slice of your mom’s special lemon holiday cake. Instead of stressing about impossibly strict dietary goals, focus on making simple, smart choices, like choosing fresh veggies instead of cheese cubes and mini-sausages at the holiday party. 

Holiday Stressor No. 2: Overspending

Money is a major holiday stressor, especially for people with big families. It’s far too easy to overspend, especially when you don’t have a budget in mind for gifts. To keep your spending in check, start by making a list of everyone you need to buy for, and how much you’ll spend—and then stick to your budget! To keep costs down, suggest drawing names for the family gift exchange, or agree to a per-gift price limit. 

Holiday Stressor No. 3: Feeling Overwhelmed

Too much to do? Number one, be willing to say “no.” If you routinely feel overwhelmed this time of year, decide ahead of time what your priorities are, and let some other things go. And make sure to keep up your regular workout routine—exercise boosts your mood, reduces stress, and is good for your overall health. 

Holiday Stressor No. 4: Feeling Lonely

There is a lot of pressure to embrace the joy of the season every year, but you may not be in the frame of mind to do so. If you lost someone you love or are newly divorced, for example, the holidays can leave you feeling lonely. If that’s the case, resist the urge to isolate. Ask a friend or neighbor to join you for a holiday concert or to go look at Christmas lights, or volunteer for a charity that matters to you. Even a small amount of human connection can help. 

Holiday Stressor No. 5: Losing the Spirit of Christmas

While it’s easy to get caught up in the holiday rush, don’t lose sight of what the season is really about. Make sure you take time to pray, read your Bible, and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. Look for ways to help the less fortunate, like sponsoring a local family, and you’ll find that even in the busiest of times, you can embrace the grace of the season. 

Kelly K. James is a widely published health writer based in Illinois.

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