Here are 4 tips to help manage holiday stress:
1. Take care of your body and mind. This can include regular exercise, adequate sleep, a healthy diet, and relaxation practices. You may want to combine some of these habits for optimal self-care. For example, after a workout stretch your muscles while practicing deep breathing techniques. Eat a nutritious meal while practicing mindfulness of the moment. Get to bed at a decent hour and practice progressive muscle relaxation to help you wind down and fall asleep relaxed.
2. Identify your priorities and establish boundaries. Consider what is most important and valuable to you during the holidays and keep those as priority. This will require you to set boundaries around your priorities. Say no to “lesser” priorities, and ask for help when needed. For example, if exercising regularly is a priority, set boundaries around your time to ensure you’re able to get to the gym on a consistent basis. Similarly, if you want to spend quality time with loved ones you don’t see often, then you may have to say no to other responsibilities. This will keep you from feeling like you’re being pulled in all directions. It may also help reduce the risk of feeling resentment or disappointment once the holidays are over.
3. Be realistic. Assess your expectations of yourself and others. Try not to expect the holidays to go perfectly, and realize that you do not have to be perfect. You don’t have to prepare an ultra-fancy meal or give the perfect gift to every friend and family member. Practice some relaxation skills (mentioned above) to help clear your mind and determine what’s most realistic and what’s not. If family conflict has popped up in past holidays, don’t expect there to be perfect peace and harmony this year. Instead, plan ahead for your healthy response to conflict that may arise and be prepared to set boundaries if needed.
4. Cultivate gratitude. There is growing research on the benefits of gratitude, particularly on physical, psychological, and relational well-being. An “attitude of gratitude,” as Dr. Robert Emmons (a leading researcher on the science of gratitude) calls it, has been linked to greater stress tolerance, increased positive emotions, better sleep, improved physical health, and healthier relationships. It can be beneficial to create a daily habit of remembering what you are thankful for. Keeping a gratitude list at the beginning or end of each day is a great way to do this. If certain well-meaning friends or family members start stretching your patience, remind yourself of why you are thankful to have them in your life.