3 Tips to Minimize Holiday Stress

Crisp air, changing leaves, and seasonal decor is popping up all around. Somehow, the holidays are already upon us. For many, this is a season filled with joy and happy memories with those you love. A time that you look forward to all year. For others, the holidays are not something you get excited about, instead, you may even feel a sense of dread as they approach. Each year around this time you just can’t wait for them to be over with. Even for the population that genuinely enjoys the holidays, there is still a slight elevation in your stress level. If you’re like me, you may experience a tension of both excitement and stress as you anticipate this holiday season. The great news is that we can minimize our feelings of stress and anxiety by implementing some basic and practical skills:

 

  1. Establish Expectations

 

Determine ahead of time what the schedule for the holidays will look like. Are you gathering with family? If so, what days and times? Where are you gathering? What are you expected to bring? Answering all of these questions may require you to assert yourself and start the conversation. I recommend starting a group email thread to begin the dialogue and to ensure that everyone involved is on the same page well in advance.

 

  1. Cope Ahead

 

Imagine anything that could trigger an adverse reaction out of you. Maybe it’s a relative who gets on your nerves, tension between people close to you, a change in plans that throws you off. If you can anticipate the challenging situation ahead of time and practice coping well with it, you will be equipped to respond effectively in the moment if what you fear actually happens. Have an exit strategy in the event that you need to step away in order to get regulated. Step into the bathroom, walk outside or go for a drive. Take deep steady breathes, slowing it down to a 5 second inhale and 7 second exhale to calm your emotions and urges. Again, by practicing ahead of time, you will be prepared to effectively engage with others during the festivities.

 

  1. Avoid Avoiding

 

This time of year is inevitable. The holidays happen around the same time every year without fail. Whether we like it or not, this is a fact. When you move towards acceptance that the holidays are coming and there is no way to escape them, you will be more effective in dealing with them. Signs that you may be refusing to accept your reality can include thoughts such as “this isn’t fair”, “it shouldn’t be this way”, “how could this happen to me?”. Unfortunately, by refusing to accept your reality, you stay stuck in unhappiness, bitterness, anger, sadness, shame, or other painful emotions. When you choose to radically accept your reality for what it is, there is a deep calmness that usually follows.

 

Regardless of how you feel about this holiday season, I encourage you to be mindful of opportunities to establish expectations, cope ahead, and avoid avoiding. Hopefully, this will allow you to be present and accepting of whatever this time of year brings. May you have a meaningful and blessed holiday season!

 

Author:

Jeddy Bowen MA, LPC