The holiday season is here and while some may fa-la-la-la-la in holiday cheer, many of us experience a higher level of stress during this time. This increased stress may come from excessive commitments, increased eating and spending time with family (or even the notion of doing so). Whatever the cause, it’s important to know that higher stress levels are normal this time of year. It’s also critical to realize when you are feeling overly stressed and what you can do to help alleviate some of that pressure.
Signs you are stressed out
In our always-connected, over-scheduled lives, it’s easy to live with stress, but that doesn’t mean you should. Your stress levels may be rising if you find yourself experiencing any of the following:
- Excessive drinking
- Frequent headaches
The holidays seem to add more stress to our world with a myriad of social obligations, shopping for those perfect gifts and getting the house ready if you’re hosting. Add any unpleasant family dynamics to contend with and it’s no wonder this isn’t the most wonderful time of the year for many of us.
And then, there’s Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, which is very subtle but very real. The lack of sunlight during this time of year coupled with spending more time indoors due to the weather can be a contributing factor to your rising stress level, too.
How to minimize your stress
The best thing you can do for yourself and your family is to be aware if the holidays stress you out, is to put into practice some tactics that can help alleviate at least some of that stress.
First, set your priorities. If you can’t do it all this year (and really, why should any of us feel that we must?), then decide which activities and traditions are non-negotiable. Put those to the top of the list and eliminate any others that simply seem to be icing on the cake.
And speaking of lists, make one. Write down all your obligations and tasks so you can see what you have to do. This will help you prioritize what must get done and move to the bottom those items that aren’t as critical. Then, when you’ve completed something on your list, cross it off.
Next, use that list to realize and set your limits. If you are expected to see both sides of the family plus two groups of friends, understand how much time you can handle before you hit the tipping point. Can you decrease the time with family in a way that doesn’t impact the joy of being together? If the answer is yes, communicate your intentions in advance so that there are no surprises.
Finally, don’t forget to take time for yourself. Whether you exercise, meditate or just take a couple of minutes to breathe, remember to make time for you.
Of course, other factors beyond the holidays can contribute to stress and anxiety and your health care provider can help you figure out what those factors might be and how to cope. Contact us to learn about resources that are available to you or if you’d like to learn more about dealing with stress.