While the holidays should be a time of great joy, they can also be extremely stressful. The hustle and bustle of shopping, preparations, family gatherings, and more can cause your blood pressure to rise just thinking about it. A recent Stress in America survey showed that 24 percent of adults report extreme stress and more than one-third of adults report that their stress increased over the past year. If you’re already stressed, the holiday season can be an added challenge.
It’s time to reframe your thinking about the holidays. Instead of anticipating the likely stress ahead, try to view the holidays as an opportunity to improve your wellbeing. There are a number of helpful steps you can take to lessen holiday stress and feel more optimistic about the season. Start with these three:
- Simplify – The holiday season is particularly stressful when you have too much on your plate. This might be the case if you’re welcoming out-of-town guests and hosting family festivities. Set realistic expectations for yourself. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to do everything yourself. Get your family involved and delegate. For example, instead of taking on the responsibility of preparing an entire meal alone, ask everyone to bring a dish.
- Budget – The holiday season and spending go hand-in-hand. Between buying gifts for your children, spouse, and relatives, you can drop hundreds of dollars between Black Friday and Christmas Day. A 2015 Gallup poll reported that shoppers around the United States were planning to spend an average of $830 on gifts over the holidays. Although spending money during the holiday season may be unavoidable, you can control how much you spend. To help prevent stress over money, plan ahead, review your finances, and come up with a realistic budget for gifts.
- Exercise – Although you may feel like you’re running around like crazy, you’re not really running. When you’re stressed, it’s especially important to exercise. Being active can elevate your mood and actually help you cope with stress. Exercise and other types of physical activity stimulate the production of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are brain chemicals that function as a natural painkiller. They can trigger a positive feeling in the body, boosting mood and reducing feelings of anxiety and stress.