Christmas and the New Year can be incredibly stressful, especially if you're juggling family and friends. However, this doesn't mean that having a breakdown is inevitable! Staying calm and collected during the holidays is easy if you know what to do.
What's With Holiday Stress?
So, why do we get so stressed over the holiday period? It's a combination of factors. Firstly, there is the financial strain that many people face as presents are bought and food prepared. There's also the gathering of people that we may not necessarily see during the year, particularly family members.
The conclusion of a year also brings stress to many people, as they reflect on the year that has passed. Many may find that they haven't achieved what they wanted to, or feel overwhelmed at the thought of another year going by.
Health Effects of Stress
Stress is not a healthy thing to engage in long-term. Some people think that holiday stress is inevitable and won't make a big difference because it's short-term. This might be true if you have no other major stress in your life, but for most of us, it can become the straw that breaks the camel's back.
Additional stress can lead to a host of health complications, and it is linked to many others. Just some of the issues known to be associated with excess stress include:
- Central adiposity (fat around the belly)
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Other mental health issues
- Digestive issues such as IBS
- Menstrual issues
- Low sex drive
- Muscle pains
- Poor immunity
The list goes on, with every complication adding even more issues. But the bottom line is, if you want to have a healthy, happy body and mind, you need to know how to manage your stress levels.
There are strategies that you can use no matter what the cause of your stress or where you are. These will allow you to take back control of how you feel, and let you feel better prepared to tackle the holiday occasions ahead.
Staying Calm Among Family
For the majority of us, the most stressful part of the holidays is family. Whether it's the kids, the in-laws, or your Aunt Sally who nags you about settling down, the outcome is the same. You might react with anger, sadness, frustration or some other way. Some people turn to food, others to alcohol or drugs, and some simply withdraw from the world.
Just because your family can say and do things that are stressful, doesn't mean that you have to let that ruin your Christmas spirit! There are a few ways you might choose to diffuse the situation.
First, you may want to consider calmly confronting them about the issue. This doesn't mean snapping at them in a tantrum. In fact, it's best to bring it up later in the day after you've calmed down. Ask them why they choose to say what they have. For example, “Aunt Sally, why do you always ask me if I've settled down yet?”
You might find that it's coming from a very different viewpoint than what you might feel. Most family ask well-meaning questions out of concern, and don't necessarily understand that you take it as criticism.
You might also choose to turn the question or statement into a positive note. If your family asks if you're still single, turn it around. Tell them, “Yes, I chose to focus on my career this year. It's paying off, as I'm up for a promotion early next year! My new job involves…” This changes the subject, and lets you share news that you're proud of.
If it's a little person who is behind your stresses, you can try taking them aside into another room for a few minutes. Children can be just as stressed by the holidays, with too many relatives, lots of noise and too much sugary food as a potent mix for overwhelmed behavior. You might just offer them a cuddle, or you might sit down with them and discuss their behavior.
If none of these strategies seem appropriate, you can choose to simply take a few moments. Head into the back yard, or to the bathroom, and let your body relax for a couple of minutes. This gives you a chance to remind yourself that it's only one day of the year, and you can survive it.
Staying Calm Among Friends
When we're out and about with friends, it can be quite a negative experience, especially if alcohol is involved. Holiday parties are often where a lot of nastiness and gossip arises. You may find yourself the victim of bullying, or even engaging in bullying behavior with the group.
Luckily, this is not inevitable. Whenever you find yourself in a situation where gossip and drama are building, simply excuse yourself. If you feel confident, vocalize that you don't want to engage in gossip, and walk away.
Use the time of walking away to take a few deep, calming breaths. Grab a glass of water to keep yourself hydrated, as that dehydration can make us all grumpy and stressed sometimes. Then hit the dance floor, and enjoy your night out!
Staying Calm By Yourself
Many people actually experience a lot of stress when they are alone during the holidays. Whether it's completely alone due to having no plans, or simply having a day off between events, the mind can start ticking away.
You might find yourself caught in a negative thought spiral, thinking about what a failure you are, how alone you are, and so on.
The good news is that being solo is the ideal time to calm yourself and get into a better headspace. Take a few moments to breathe deep into your belly.
Then try doing some journaling for the year gone and the year ahead. How did you feel this year? How do you want to feel next year? What can you do to achieve those feelings? Make a plan now, so that you can continually reflect and adjust your actions and choices throughout the year ahead.
The most important thing to remember about staying calm during the holiday period is that it is your choices that make the difference. You can choose to take a break from stressful situations, or you can choose to change them. Whichever you decide, you will see the difference that it makes. Here's to a cool, calm and collected holiday season!