Surviving the Holidays: Your Guide to Managing Holiday Stress
by Aden Andrus • November 17, 2020
Andy Williams might call it “the most wonderful time of the year”, but for many people, the holidays tend to be more “stressful” than “wonderful”.
Whether it’s at home or at work, the holiday season often comes with high expectations, additional demands and a lot of extra stress.
If you aren’t smart about how you handle the pressure, the holidays can throw you and your business into a tailspin. Whether it’s managing clients, squeaking past annual goals, planning for the new near, surviving the holiday shopping season, dealing with in-laws or something else, the holidays can be a lot to handle.
That’s why, in this article, we’re going to discuss some practical tips you can use to manage holiday stress. We can’t promise that everything will go smoothly this holiday season, but if you can keep yourself mentally healthy and focused, you may just end up enjoying the holidays after all.
Managing Holiday Stress
The end of the year tends to come with a lot of personal and professional stresses.
According to the American Psychological Association, 65% of people reported that work was a key source of stress during the holidays. 38% said that their stresses were home-related.
While the holiday blues may not be a particularly well-understood phenomenon, they can be a trying time for almost anyone.
Unfortunately, once stress gets out of hand, it can be hard to get back under control—especially during the holidays. The best way to prevent that from happening is to take an active approach and prevent stress and depression from becoming a problem in the first place.
So, to help you stay on top of things, let’s take a look at a few tips you’ll want to keep in mind during the holidays.
Create a Plan
One of the best ways to manage stress is to plan ahead. Figure out what your goals and obstacles are, list out your priorities and decide how to best handle all of the demands on your time.
If you know you’re going to be out of the office for a few days or a week, figure out what you need to accomplish before then so that you can truly disconnect from work during the holidays.
If you have parties to plan, food to bring or presents to buy, write down all of your to-do list items in advance and come up with a plan of attack.
No matter what you have on your plate this holiday season, planning in advance will allow you to be more efficient with your time. That will free you up to focus on what matters most in the moment and help you get both more work and more relaxing done during the holidays.
Take Your Feelings into Account
The holidays can evoke a lot of feelings—good and bad. We often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to feel or act a certain way during the holidays, but if you aren’t honest with yourself about your negative feelings, they can grow and ruin the whole holiday season.
We all do our best to separate our work and home lives, but if the pressure at work is getting to you, it’s okay to acknowledge that. If you don’t feel up to attending every event you’re invited to, give yourself permission to say no and take care of yourself.
Similarly, if the holidays aren’t shaping up to be what you expected or end up being more dramatic than you would like, it’s okay to feel sad or upset. Acknowledge your feelings and give yourself the breathing room you need.
Set Aside Differences
You aren’t the only one feeling the pressure during the holidays. Whether you’re dealing with grouchy mother-in-law or a grumpy coworker who just spent all weekend with his mother-in-law, remember that most of us are doing our best.
You might want people to act a certain way in meetings or family gatherings, but if they don’t, it doesn’t mean that they don’t care about you. Odds are, they’re dealing with their own challenges.
The more willing you are to set aside differences and embrace the spirit of the season, the more relaxed everyone will feel and the easier it will be to spend time around them. That’s a win for everyone.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should tolerate abusive or degrading behavior. But, if you’re simply struggling to get along, the holidays are a great time to let things go and look for common ground.
Maintain Good Habits
Between all the stress and the break from your normal routine, it’s easy for the holiday season to become a free-for-all. Unfortunately, that can be as bad for your emotional health as it is for your waistline.
The better you are at controlling how much you drink (and spend), eating right, getting enough sleep and exercising, the easier it will be to stay on top of all the challenges of the holiday season. There’s nothing wrong with having fun—just make sure that you don’t go overboard.
This applies to every aspect of your life. There’s a temptation to slack off during the holidays, but if you stay on top of your work life and personal habits, you’ll be happier, more relaxed and better able to make the most of the holiday season.
One of the best ways to relieve stress is to look outside yourself. The more you think about yourself, the easier it is to get frustrated, upset or overwhelmed.
Obviously, you don’t want to overburden yourself, but finding ways to help others and get involved in the community can be a great way to combat the holiday blues.
From a work perspective, there are often many ways for businesses and employees to help those in need. If your company is running a fundraiser or asking for volunteers, get involved! If not, see if you can get something started.
At home, there are even more opportunities to reach out. If you’re feeling lonely or isolated, look for community, religious or other social events to attend. Call a family member. Drop off treats at a neighbor’s house. Volunteer at a local shelter, soup kitchen or nursing home.
While holiday parties and get-togethers are fun, the best way to celebrate the holidays is to look beyond yourself and reach out to other people. Isn’t that the true spirit of the season?
Give Yourself Room to Breathe
Finally, amidst all of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, don’t forget to make time for down time. No matter how extroverted you may be, everyone needs a little time to catch their breath and recover.
One of the most challenging things about the holidays is the fact that they come at the end of the year.
Odds are, you’ve worked hard all year and need a bit of a break. However, if anything, the holidays are even busier and more difficult than the rest of the year.
At work, you’ve got projects to wrap up and new plans to map out. At home, you’ve got lots of errands to run, present to buy, events to attend and more.
If you aren’t careful, you can quickly burn yourself out.
To avoid that, you need to build downtime into your schedule. The amount of downtime that you’ll need will depend on your personality, but give yourself permission to take a breather.
It’s okay to say no to events or tasks that you simply don’t have the bandwidth for. The people who truly care about you will understand, even if your absence makes them a bit sad.
The holidays are a tricky time for everyone. There are a lot of demands and competing priorities to balance and if you aren’t careful, the “most wonderful time of the year” can quickly become the “most stressful time of the year”.
You and your loved ones deserve better.
The trick is to understand yourself, your needs, your obligations and your priorities. The better you understand these things, the better you will be at focusing on what matters most.
The holiday season might not always be everything that you’d hoped, but if you can find effective ways to manage holiday stress, the coming weeks will be far more enjoyable and relaxing. Happy holidays!
How do you manage holiday stress? Which of these tips did you find most helpful? Have any additional advice to share? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.