Stress management is especially important during this time of year, especially for many of us who find the holidays to be particularly stressful. Perhaps you are juggling time between multiple families, including the stress of traveling to different cities. Maybe just being around your family is a cause for anxiety. Are you stressed about finding just the right gift for everyone on your list? Maybe your schedule is exploding with holiday events. Or perhaps wrapping up a year-end project at work is making you a nervous wreck. Whatever causes your stress, knowing how to deal with it productively before it becomes harmful to your health is essential.
Stress itself is very normal. The body’s “fight-or-flight” response is designed to protect us against potential threats. This is supposed to be a temporary and occasional inherent security measure. Unfortunately, our modern lives often cause us to live in a constant state of stress that becomes taxing on the body. There is a laundry list of symptoms, ranging from insomnia and depression, to high blood pressure and gastrointestinal problems. While some of these symptoms are manageable in short spurts, prolonged exposure to stress can have a long-term negative impact on your physical, mental, emotional and social health.
With all of the stressful things we may encounter over the holidays, what is the best stress management approach?
If you know you want to be proactive about dealing with stress, you can check off the first step of stress management. Knowing you have an issues and deciding to change is important to your success. Then identify what causes your stress. During the holidays, it may be a nagging (yet we’re sure well-meaning) parent, a boss who is not supportive of vacation time, a crowded schedule that puts you in a tizzy, or maybe your growing credit card bill from the generous gifts you’ve bought others.
Once you know why you are stressed you can start to put some thought into how you can prevent, avoid or cope with your stressors. For instance, you can decide to smile and count to 5 before responding to a family member’s irritating line of questions. You can meet with your boss several weeks before vacation to curb last minute assignments. You can decide not to accept invitations to holiday events that are less important to you. And you can get creative and thrifty with your holiday shopping.
Not every stressor will have a specific solution, but you can ameliorate the situation using coping techniques. Sometimes just talking through your stress with a friend or taking time for exercise can make you feel better. Relaxation is another great way to handle stress. We all need to unwind to release the pressure of our daily lives. Find what relaxes you – a warm bath, a long walk, yoga, meditation, positive affirmations – and practice it often. It may make those other stressful parts of your holiday feel a little less like stress in the end.
We wish you a low-stress holiday season!