It’s that time of year again; a season of celebration with friends and family, but as wonderful as the holidays can be, we may find ourselves dealing with stress. Why does this happen? Stanford University has a few ideas. First, families are complex systems. Families change over time, and change isn’t always easy. Second, we tend to have strong expectations for the holidays. We may expect our plans to go perfectly, and when plans change, it can be frustrating. Third, we may overextend ourselves by trying to meet our plans and expectations. We may try to make the ‘perfect meal’ or buy gifts that we can’t afford. The key to making it through the holidays is to make choices that will eliminate the big stressors. Here are a few tips from womenshealth.gov:
- Give yourself permission to stop at least one thing this year. Try making five different types of cookies instead of six. Don’t do holiday cards unless you love sending them. Identify which holiday chore you dislike the most and don’t do it unless it’s critical to family harmony.
- Don’t apologize or make excuses. If someone says, "Hey! Where are the gingerbread cookies? We can't have this holiday without your gingerbread cookies!" that's your cue to say, "Well, let's try. Here, have a Snickerdoodle." There are folks who will try to make you feel guilty (and may succeed, but this too will pass). Just smile and declare, "I decided not to stress myself out this year. I wanted to focus on being together with friends and family."
- When you start feeling stressed, take time for yourself. Stress is contagious. If you're prone to feeling stressed or overstimulated, then you're likely to feel it during the holidays. Current holiday traditions are a perfect storm for stress: an abundance of bright blinking lights, crowds and traffic, high-fat meals and treats, overspending, and constant fast-paced music. Your senses become overloaded and sometimes you need to get away and rest.
Naturally, we want to do more than just make it through the holiday season; we want to enjoy it! Here are a few more tips from Stanford University that can help you make a positive change this year. Choosing any one of these can make for a more enjoyable holiday season:
- Identify what it is about the holidays that stresses you out, and deal with it directly.
- Set realistic expectations for others and yourself. Don’t become overwhelmed with pressure to make this year’s holidays the best ever.
- Don’t try to do too much. Plan ahead of time, prioritize what needs to be done and try to involve others. Ask for support when you feel overwhelmed.
- If the holidays make you feel out of control, “take control” over the holidays by taking timeouts for yourself. Have more self-compassion and accept your limitations.
- Stick to a budget for gift giving and food shopping, or even consider alternatives to gift giving. Track your spending and try to limit the amount of time you spend in shopping malls and stores.
- Remember what’s important. Advertisements can overshadow the holiday season and make us forget that our relationships with friends and family matter more than material objects.
- Take care of yourself. Don’t abandon healthy habits like eating nutritious foods, drinking plenty of water, getting plenty of sleep, and physical activity.
- Use humor; try to see the lighter side of life and not take yourself too seriously.
If you need some extra encouragement to change the habits that make you stressed this holiday season, sign up for our wellness challenge! You will receive two weekly emails on tips and ideas to reduce stress and enjoy the holiday season. You can sign up for this challenge with an email address at: go.osu.edu/waynecalm18
Sara Meeks is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Program Assistant and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
CFAES provides research and related educational programs to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis. For more information, visit cfaesdiversity.osu.edu.