From stressful time-crunches to social situations that cause anxiety, there are so many things that can trigger anxiety, stress, depression, and all-out panic attacks. Here are a few things that can cause tension during this time of year:
This is a major stressor for just about everyone for several reasons. For one, the pressure to pick out just the right present is enough to make someone scream. Add to that the frustration of long lines, busy stores, pushy crowds, lack of parking, and sensory overstimulation, and you’ve created a recipe for disaster.
Holidays mean big meals, lots of food, and even more stress. Preparing a menu, shopping for groceries (fighting the crowds), cooking the food, serving, and clearing up after is a tall order for anyone.
While most people love their family, too much of a good thing can be, well, not a good thing. With holiday parties aplenty, trips, and shopping expeditions happening frequently, it’s easy to get too much family time, causing anxiety and stress to rise.
With the holidays approaching, most places of work will have heavy workloads, strict deadlines, and longer hours. This can increase your stress levels dramatically.
More than 15 million adults across America suffer from social anxiety. If you are one of them, social outings are a nightmare for you, and office parties are among the worst. Forced to socialize in an awkward setting, anxiety is inevitable.
While some people are trying to combat the stress of busy schedules, too much family time, and social anxiety overload, others are struggling with a completely different kind of anxiety. For some individuals, the holidays are a poignant reminder that they are alone. Not able to be surrounded by friends and loved ones can be particularly painful during this time of year.
Healthy Ways of Coping With Stress Around the Holidays
No matter what time of year, stress is not a pleasant feeling to experience. Fortunately, there are multiple things you can do to prevent or cope with this mounting emotion. Here are 8 ways to keep these unpleasant companions from showing up uninvited.
Stress Coping Tip #1: Check Your Expectations
When the holidays come around, many people have grand plans. The table setting, the wrapping paper, the holiday photo. It’s all meant to be picture perfect. But here’s a news flash; life isn’t picture perfect. Don’t set yourself up for failure, and don’t add more stress to your life striving for an unattainable goal. Review your holiday goals and make sure that you have realistic expectations for how this season is going to play out.
Stress Coping Tip #2: Label is to Disable it
Acknowledge your feelings. There is nothing wrong with feeling overwhelmed, anxious, stressed out, or altogether negative about this time of year. It’s also ok to feel sad if you are alone. Particularly, if a loved one has recently left or passed away, it is very common to experience grief during the holidays.
Whatever emotions you are feeling right now, acknowledge them. Give them a name, so they don’t seem larger than life (sadness is more manageable than a vague feeling of grief that goes unnamed). And don’t be ashamed to cry, even while others around you are caroling. Your feelings are legitimate, and nobody can tell you how you should or shouldn’t feel, even the calendar.
Stress Coping Tip #3: Give Yourself Space
When the holidays come around, so do social obligations. Various social obligations include office parties, family gatherings, community programs, religious-affiliation get-togethers, and more. For someone who has a difficult time in social situations, the holidays are a terrifying prospect with disastrous projections.
When the mingling gets to be too much, allow yourself to step outside, take a few minutes upstairs in your room, or go home altogether. You have no obligation to stay all night long. What’s more, there’s no law that says you must attend every function either. If the constant social stimulation is starting to overwhelm you, sit this one out. You’ll be able to embrace and handle the next event with greater peace of mind and fortitude.
Stress Coping Tip #4: Make a Plan
Often, we start to feel overwhelmed because we have so much to do during this time of year. Between the shopping, the cooking, the organizing, and more, holidays usher in a whole mess of anxiety-laden opportunities. It’s much easier to handle holiday mayhem if you have a plan. Make an organized list of everything you’ll need to take care of. Be sure to include minor details as well.
Once you have a concrete list, you can tackle one task at a time. With this one step in front of the other approach, you will be able to process the entire season much more easily and calmly. You can also put specific tasks into days or time slots, so you know exactly when you are getting each thing done.
Making a plan can also include a budget, particularly if money is a major trigger for you (as it is for many people). If you have a budget, then you know exactly how much you want to spend on each category, keeping the stress of spending in check. Note: If having a budget will stress you out more because you’ll constantly be nervous about going over, then perhaps you skip this part of the process (but only if you can afford to).
Stress Coping Tip #5: Share the Responsibilities
Frequently, stress comes from feeling overwhelmed by too many possibilities. In the case of holiday preparations, stress quickly builds when thinking about all of the things you have to get done. A simple solution to avoid stress-building situations is to delegate tasks to other people.
If you're having a large crowd for Christmas dinner, for example, ask everyone to make something instead of doing all the cooking yourself. There's no crime in getting others to pitch in, and you're not any less of a superhero for asking for help.
Stress Coping Tip #6: Reach Out for Help
When you're feeling stressed, anxious, depressed, or any other overwhelming emotion, it's important to reach out for help. This might be picking up the phone to call a friend or sibling who you feel close to. Or it might mean calling on the assistance of a professional. Online therapy is an affordable way for anyone to get the support, guidance, and tools they need to help them through a difficult time.
Stress Coping Tip #7: Stay Healthy
The holidays are a notorious time for tossing healthy habits out the window. Even the most balanced dieters often fall victim to the stress and lack of time ushered in during these hectic weeks. But dropping your healthy habits can decrease your energy levels, dopamine production (the happy hormone), and increase stressors in your body.
During this time, try to stick with healthy habits. Have a healthy snack before a party or meal, try to limit sugary foods, and get enough sleep so that your mind and body can recover. Also, try to incorporate some sort of physical activity into your day every day.
Stress Coping Tip #8: Use Mood Enhancers
Feeling down or blue? Sometimes, all that our emotional side needs is a little boost from a friendly mood enhancer. Try some of these for an instant pick-me-up:
- Take a walk in the fresh air. Fresh air raises the oxygen levels in your brain, boosting serotonin, and enhancing your mood.
- Get out in the sun. Like fresh air, sunlight increases serotonin production in your brain, making you happier and healthier.
- Sniff some citrus. This is actually shown to reduce stress and increase norepinephrine, a mood hormone.
- LOL. No, really. Laughter actually reduces stress hormones in the body, so chuckle away your stress.
Dealing With Holiday Stress
Sometimes, stress is inevitable. But with the right coping skills and assistance, you can manage your anxiety, calm your stress, and learn to avoid it whenever possible, so you can really enjoy this festive time of year.