"It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" Stress and the Holidays
The holiday season is upon us once more. Already, we are seeing Christmas lights appearing on houses and in shop windows. Christmas music is playing on the local radio station. And, Christmas movies are being shown nightly on certain television channels, interrupted by commercials advertising where to find the perfect gift. The holidays can definitely be a wonderful time of the year. It is a time for friends and family to gather and celebrate. It is a time for gift giving and receiving. And, it is also a time to reflect upon our lives and the current year and what we want to see in the coming year. However, for many of us, the holiday season can bring extra stress, anxiety and sadness. For some, the financial costs of celebrating the holidays can seem overwhelming. Others may feel heightened anxiety as they search for the perfect gifts; or, as they try to find the extra time to decorate, cook, bake, attend events or parties, and make time for family and friends. And, for many others, the upcoming holiday season may not be joyous at all due to a life altering event, such as the death of a beloved partner or family member, an unexpected illness or loss of employment. These feelings of stress, anxiety and/or sadness may even be caused or intensified by the ever present global pandemic from COVID-19.
If you, like so many others, are already beginning to feel the stress and anxiety of the holidays, read the suggestions below on how to find ways to reduce that stress.
Step 1: Keep COVID-19 in mind-- Let us first acknowledge that this year's holiday season is going to look different than any that we have experienced. With increasing COVID-19 cases being seen across the country, top health experts are already advising against large gatherings for the holidays. When planning for the holidays, keep in mind the advice given to us by our medical professionals. Click on the CDC link to read the advice offered to us about safely gathering with friends and family members. If you plan to travel out of state, make sure you know the guidelines and any restrictions for the state that you are traveling to. Step 2: Talk it out-- If this holiday season is giving you more stress and anxiety than usual, don't be afraid to reach out and share these feelings with someone you trust. Open up to a friend, family member or health professional about your fears and concerns that this season may bring. Especially if COVID-19 has left you feeling more stressed, anxious or isolated- share those feelings with someone. **If you, or someone close to you, needs additional help dealing with the strain COVID-19 may be having on your emotional health, please seek out help and support. For more information, click on the link for resources provided by the Utah State Health Department. Step 3: Budget-- The financial costs for celebrating the holidays can be overwhelming for many families and can cause major stress. One way to help is to create and STICK with a budget. Do not just budget money for gifts, create a budget for the entire holiday season which includes: decorations, entertainment, food and gifts. Be realistic with yourself, being debt free is worth more than any present. Around 28% of Christmas shoppers enter the holiday season, still paying off debts from the season before (MSNBC). Step 4: Keep Healthy Habits-- During the holiday season, try to get plenty of sleep. Exercise regularly. Take advantage of sunny days and spend time outdoors. Eat healthy meals and eat consistently; do not skip meals in preparation for an upcoming holiday meal. However, it is also important to enjoy the foods you love during the holidays. Depriving yourself may lead to even more guilt and resentment. Try to find a good balance of making both healthy choices and indulging in your favorite treat. Step 5: Relax-- During the busyness of the season, do not forget to take time out for yourself. Take time every day, even if it is just a few minutes, to slow down and relax. Soak in a warm bath; wrap up in a blanket and read a good book or watch your favorite holiday show; meditate or just take a nap. Making time for yourself each day will help you recharge and hopefully the holidays will be more enjoyable than stressful.
Overall, try to slow down this holiday season and remember why you are celebrating. Reach out, maybe virtually, to family members and friends to show your love and gratitude for them.