10 Ways to Manage Stress During the Holiday Season
Set Realistic Expectations
It’s easy to get carried away with the idealized version of the holidays: a perfectly decorated home, impeccable meals, and everyone getting along harmoniously. Remember, perfection is an illusion. Anticipate some bumps along the way. If you keep your expectations realistic, you’ll be more adaptable when things don’t go as planned.
Procrastination can be a significant source of holiday stress. Start early. Whether it’s shopping for gifts, meal planning, or organizing your schedule, setting tasks and deadlines well in advance can make a world of difference. Don’t be afraid to plan your exit from events as well, if you start to feel uncomfortable, allow yourself the space to excuse yourself from difficult situations which may negatively impact your recovery.
Prioritize your well-being. Engage in activities that rejuvenate you, whether it’s reading a book, taking a walk, or meditating. Ensure you’re getting enough sleep and maintain a balanced diet. The holidays can tempt us with treats, but moderation is key. Also, exercise releases endorphins, natural stress-relievers, so try to fit in some physical activity.
If certain topics lead to family disagreements, it’s okay to set boundaries. A simple, “I prefer not to discuss this right now,” can keep the peace. If you’re hosting, make your needs and plans clear to attendees in advance. If you’re attending, don’t be afraid to ask the host about details so you can be prepared.
Delegate Responsibilities When You Can
Remember, you don’t have to do it all yourself! If you’re hosting a dinner, for instance, consider making it potluck-style, or assign tasks like setting the table or pouring drinks. By sharing responsibilities, you alleviate pressure and foster a sense of community.
Limit Financial Stress
Set a realistic budget for gifts, travel, and other holiday-related expenses. It’s tempting to overspend, but the financial stress in January when the bills come due isn’t worth it. If funds are tight, consider hand-made gifts or offer acts of service. It’s the thought and intent behind the gift that counts.
If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed or agitated during a family gathering, take a moment for yourself. Step outside for fresh air or find a quiet space to regroup. This brief respite can help you recalibrate and approach situations with renewed patience.
If you find the holidays consistently stressful or saddening, consider speaking to a therapist, trusted friend, or spiritual advisor. Turn to your recovery network or your sponsor. They can offer coping strategies and provide a safe space to discuss your feelings. Sometimes, just verbalizing your anxieties can be incredibly therapeutic.
Go with the Flow
Finally, remember that it’s okay if things don’t go according to plan. Some of the most memorable holiday moments come from the unexpected. Embrace these surprises and cherish the unique quirks of your celebrations. Most importantly, enjoy each moment as you experience the holidays sober.