Natural Ways to Reduce Stress During the Holidays

Stressed woman in front of a Christmas tree

As the holiday season approaches, you may be getting excited to spend time with family and friends, take part in meaningful traditions, and attend festive parties. You might also be feeling some stress creeping in, and that’s completely normal, too. The holidays can be a wonderful time of year, but they also create a lot of pressure that can leave you feeling drained.

Why are the Holidays Stressful?

The holidays are supposed to be all about togetherness and joy, so why are they stressful for so many people? There are many reasons why the holidays can be difficult. Here is a list of some common holiday stressors:

  • Family tension
  • Pressure to host, entertain, and make sure others have a good time
  • Pressure to have a good time yourself and create a perfect holiday season
  • Travel
  • Disruption of your regular routine
  • Feeling obligated to celebrate in specific ways or with specific people
  • Fear of missing out (FOMO)
  • Financial strain of buying gifts, traveling, and other expenses
  • Being reminded of loved ones who can no longer celebrate with you

Symptoms of Holiday Stress

Holiday stress affects everyone differently. You may find that it impacts you more emotionally, physically, or a combination of both. Common symptoms of holiday stress can look like:

Tips to Manage Holiday Stress

Even if you love the holidays, the accompanying stress can take its toll if not managed properly. Here are our top tips to reduce stress this holiday season.

Plan Ahead

The more you plan ahead, the less you will have to rush and burn yourself out during the holiday season. Planning well ahead of time can also save you money, especially on travel. If buying gifts stresses you out every year, try scheduling time well before the holidays to start buying your gifts – or look toward gift giving alternatives like experiences and spending time with loved ones. Not all gifts need to be monetary.

Schedule Alone Time

The holidays tend to be a very social time, and not all people look forward to the emphasis on gatherings. While they can be enjoyable for many, it can also mean you might never get a second alone. Research shows that a healthy amount of solitude decreases stress, increases creativity, and improves overall wellbeing. 1 2 If you are spending your holidays staying with or hosting family and friends, make sure that you schedule in some time to be alone with your thoughts. Try taking a short walk alone every day or blocking out time to read a book by yourself.

Don’t Say Yes to Everything

When all of those holiday party invites come flooding in, you might feel obligated to RSVP “yes” to every single one. However, if you do not have the bandwidth to attend them all, it is better to say “no” to a few. Forcing yourself to attend everything, even when you are feeling burned out, will just make you feel even more tired and may cultivate feelings of resentment.

Take stock of how much capacity you really have, and only attend events you have the energy for. If you have a number of events you really want to attend, but it still feels like too much, see if you can lessen your responsibility for some of them. For example, do you need to host the holiday dinner and cook everything, or can someone else contribute some dishes? Can you ask someone to help you wrap presents instead of doing it all yourself?

Eat Well

With all the holiday treats and family dinners, it can be easy to neglect the food that is best for you. However, eating a balanced diet of whole foods has been shown to improve mood and decrease stress. 3 While there is nothing wrong with indulging in your favorite holiday dishes, make sure that you are also prioritizing nutritious foods and drinking plenty of water.

Make Financial Boundaries

Money is a major stressor around the holiday season. 4 You can lessen the burden by making a reasonable budget and sticking to it. If you are concerned about giving inexpensive gifts when you are receiving gifts that cost more, suggest some alternate ways to give gifts. For example, perhaps you could make a spending limit with your friends where you all agree to spend no more than $25 on each other. If you have a big family and the thought of getting individual gifts for each of your siblings is too much, suggest that everybody draw names and get a gift for just one person, so that everybody gets a gift, but nobody has the financial burden of buying gifts for each family member.

Remember, the holidays should be a joyful time. Make an effort this year to put yourself first and take care of your own needs. You just might find that it becomes a yearly tradition.


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