While some holiday-related stress may be inevitable, there are steps you can take to manage stress during what can be a mixed bag of a season. Here are just a few tips for getting through the month with more jubilation and less agitation.  

Practice setting boundaries

The holidays are a great time to try out those boundary-setting skills you’ve been working on in therapy. As much as you may want to say yes to every party invitation, concert, fundraiser, bake sale, volunteer opportunity and gift request you receive this month, the reality is that saying yes to everything is what often leads us to become resentful of everything we end up doing – and of everyone who asks us to do it. At the beginning of the month (or as close to it as you can), determine what your priorities are for your time and budget this holiday season, communicate them to your loved ones, friends and colleagues when possible and appropriate, and say no to as many of the other things that pop up as you can. It may be hard at first, but it will almost certainly feel a lot better than the alternative. 

Set reasonable expectations of yourself (and others)

It’s easy to buy into the notion that the holiday season is supposed to be magical for everyone, and you may even believe it’s your responsibility to make it so. But the reality is that running yourself ragged and spending more money than you have trying to make the holidays “perfect” is not worth tanking your physical, mental or financial health. Instead, take a moment to decide what about the holiday season is most important to you and focus on that. To the best of your ability, stick to things that are largely within your control. Do you love to bake an assortment of fancy holiday treats for everyone in your life? Great, focus on that! Are you someone who enjoys going that extra mile to select unique gifts your family members will appreciate? Go for it! But consider determining a realistic budget first, and then stick to it. Finally, rather than using everyone else’s reactions to determine whether you achieved your holiday goals, ask yourself instead if you think you accomplished them. If the answer is no, rather than relegating yourself to Santa’s naughty list, ask yourself what you learned from the experience, and then use that knowledge to make next year even better. 

Take care of your body

It can be easy to let our personal wellness practices fall to the wayside during this busy time, but since we have already established that the holidays can be stressful, it should come as no surprise that taking good care of yourself becomes especially important this time of year. Consider focusing on getting good sleep, moving your body, and being mindful of your sugar and alcohol consumption. While it may be tempting to tell yourself you’ll deal with all that health stuff come January 1st, the reality is that your mind and body will suffer now if you stop taking care of yourself. And don’t forget to work in some fun to balance out the endless to-do list! There are a plethora of fun outdoor activities during the holiday season, which means you have many enjoyable options to choose from to keep your body moving and release some of that holiday-induced tension at the same time. 

Engage your senses 

Winter, with its cold, dry air and minimal daylight, can wear down even the sunniest disposition. To brighten your mood, consider incorporating aromatherapy and other sensory experiences into your daily routine. Warmly-scented candles, spiced apple cider, uplifting body lotions, warm baths, invigorating diffuser blends – these are just a few of the many ways you can activate your senses, soothe your mind and body, and lift your spirits. 

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Lastly, keep in mind that most of the little details, in the end, don’t really matter. No one thinks back to past holidays and hones in on that one time when Aunt Bev forgot to bring bread rolls for the big meal. So you ran out of time and now little Janey has to wear the same dress as last year for the annual pageant: it’s ok. Breathe, go back to those priorities you set at the beginning of the month, and remind yourself that all the other stuff is just that: stuff. 

LynLake Centers for WellBeing provides therapy and counseling services. Begin your journey to healing and wellness by scheduling an appointment with us today.

Written by: Terri Bly, PsyD, LP, Licensed Clinical Psychologist