Ahhhh.. The holidays are here! It’s time to prepare for gifts, feasts, cookie exchanges, and… stress?
If preparing for a stressful season is something you anticipate, you are not alone. Harvard found in one study that 62% of their respondents described their stress level as “very or somewhat” elevated during the holidays. A Sesame study even found their participants were so stressed around this time of year that if given the chance, 56% wish the holidays were canceled altogether!
It’s unfortunate that stress has become a holiday staple. However, there are some things that you can do to help yourself find a little more joy this year! Here are 3 ways to help you prepare for holiday stress.
1. Make A Plan
It is time to be honest with yourself. What is the #1 thing that brings you stress during the holidays? Maybe it’s money. Perhaps, choosing the right gift? Or, hosting 20 people in your two bedroom apartment? Whatever your biggest stressor: MAKE A PLAN. Sometimes it is uncomfortable to “face your fears” but the more prepared you feel the more perceived control you will have. That means you should make the budget for your gifts and start shopping ahead of time. Maybe you order your gifts for pickup to beat the store crowds that trigger your anxiety? Maybe you remove the stress of getting the turkey JUST RIGHT and order pre-cooked food instead! Maybe this time to give yourself permission to do things a little differently if it helps you to ACTUALLY ENJOY your time spent doing them.
2. Predict the predictable
Yes, you read that right. Predict what is predictable. There are likely some comments, behaviors, and mishaps that you have grown to expect over the years from your loved ones. You can bet on Aunt Martha asking you when you’ll be getting married. Or maybe Uncle Phil helps himself to too much scotch and sings a not so lovely rendition of “Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presely. Whatever your predictable event, you KNOW it is likely to happen. Instead of allowing these predictable events to make us feel surprised, on guard, or reactive we can accept that they will happen and prepare our coping mechanisms. A fun way to do this is to print out an empty BINGO card, fill it in with predictable events, and secretly see if you can get a BINGO. You can even reward yourself if you win. It helps to know what you will do when each of these events inevitably happen. When Uncle Phil turns the Karaoke machine on this year, why not offer to help clean the kitchen. When Aunt Martha asks intrusive questions, have a response or subject change ready to go.
3. Find YOUR meaning
For this step, you’ll need to set aside your obligations for a moment. Now, ask yourself these questions:
“what do I LIKE about the holidays?”
“What are MY favorite parts?”
“What memories do I want to make?”
Prioritize making these things happen even if it means saying no to someone else. Setting boundaries with your time or money can be very difficult, especially if we are surrounded by obligations. However, it is important to put yourself at the top of your priority list (and not just during the holidays). You can say yes to dinner with your cousin but no to drinks afterward if it means you get to snuggle up with your partner and watch It’s a Wonderful Life instead. Make a list of your magical moments and schedule them first before penciling in everyone else’s plans.
We know that these steps are easier said than done. If you need help with any of these, ask your partner, best friend, or therapist to help you. You do not need to do this alone.
The team here at CFC wishes you a happy, healthy, and stress-reduced holiday season.