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5 Tips for Coping With Holiday Stress

The holidays are supposed to be a time to spread joy and cheer everywhere you go, right? Well, depending on who you are, the holidays can come with a lot of stress that takes a toll on your overall mental and physical well-being. Furthermore, there could be many reasons that someone endures holiday stress. Whether it is dealing with challenging in-laws, a death anniversary of a loved one, or stressing about buying gifts for your kids, we all probably experience a little holiday stress in one way or another. So how do you cope with the stress you may face during the holiday season? For starters, you need to be able to identify that you’re feeling this way in the first place, then learning to reach out for support and say ‘no’ to things that don’t serve you is critical to alleviating your anxiety. Specifically, it’s also essential to stick to a budget to avoid frivolous over-spending and not abandon your healthy habits during the holiday season so you can truly feel like your best self. Of course, nobody wants stress to ruin their holiday mood, so today, let’s take a look at 5 tips for coping with holiday stress so that we can all get back to enjoying the holidays and living our best lives.   

1. Acknowledge Your Feelings 

To begin, the most important step in dealing with holiday stress is acknowledging that you’re feeling anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed in the first place. I know this might seem obvious, but sometimes we don’t realize how stressed we are until someone points it out or we notice it ourselves in our mannerisms. For example, I never realized that I’m still affected by my Papa’s death anniversary (December 27th) until I got emotional last Christmas when I saw my Nana (his now widow). I think I get emotional because he’s not around to experience things like the holidays or life milestones anymore, like my University Graduation, and that makes me sad. However, I am always able to acknowledge these feelings, giving them a special place in my heart, and then go about my holidays without having a total breakdown. I just make sure to give my Nana an extra long hug when I see her. For someone else, a holiday stressor might not be as obvious as the death of a loved one. Complicated relationships, personality clashes, or family drama are other things that can cause many households to lose their holiday cheer. However, if you are able to identify that you are feeling anxious due to these causes, you can begin to work towards correcting them so that you may become your best self. Although it can be challenging, acknowledging your feelings is an important step in coping with holiday stress and firing your old self to make way for your new self. 

2. Reach Out 

After identifying the source of your holiday stress, you can now reach out to your loved ones for support. In my instance, I hug my Nana extra tight and maybe even talk with her a bit about my Papa. Being able to have her support in this situation helps immensely because I know she has experienced the same, if not worse, grief regarding the situation. For someone else, reaching out might mean picking up the phone to call a friend for support or maybe even a partially-estranged relative for reconciliation. Honestly, reaching out can sometimes be one of the most challenging parts because we often over think how the other person is going to respond. But, in the end, it always helps to at least partially take the load of what we are experiencing off our shoulders. For example, if I have any stress in general (it doesn’t even have to be holiday stress), it always helps for me to talk with my boyfriend, friends, or mom about what I’m going through. Sometimes just a second opinion or someone to listen is all it takes to be able to work through what’s happening. I think we take reaching out for granted sometimes, or we don’t do it because we think the other person doesn’t care. In reality, the other person just doesn’t know what you’re going through, and as soon as you let them in, they can begin to understand where you’re coming from and support you. Ultimately, reaching out is a critical yet underrated step in dealing with holiday stress so that you can fire your old self to make way for your new, best self and live your best life. 

3. Learn to Say ‘No’ 

Once you’ve identified the source of your stress and maybe even talked with someone about it, another crucial step in coping with holiday stress is learning to say ‘no.’ Now, this is something that a lot of us struggle with, especially people-pleasers. However, no matter how difficult it may be, learning to say ‘no’ to things that are not in your best interest or cause you anxiety is the best way to alleviate or avoid stressful situations altogether. Does having everyone over to your place for Christmas Eve stress you out? (No, thank you, maybe we could do it at grandma’s house this year!). Do you always over shop for people during the holidays? (No, they don’t need this because I already bought them that). Do you kick yourself for having that second helping of pie after a full turkey dinner like I do? (No, you already enjoyed a full slice 10 minutes ago!). We have all got to learn to say no sometimes! And it doesn’t mean you’re being rude; it means you’re implementing boundaries and asking those around you (or yourself) if they can adhere to them. Learning to say no and creating boundaries in this way is actually one of the healthiest things we can do as functioning adults, although many of us would rather just say yes or comply with whatever is happening even if it causes us stress. Unlearning habits like saying yes all the time can be challenging, but nobody ever said that growth and change are easy. Being able to set boundaries and say ‘no’ is ultimately a crucial aspect of coping with holiday stress and firing your old self so that you can love the life you live. 

4. Stick To Your Budget

After you’ve practiced setting healthy boundaries and learned to say ‘no,’ it is time to utilize that mentality in order to stick to your Christmas budget. Sticking to a budget can be difficult, but financial strain is one of the main causes of holiday stress that people face in modern, capitalist society. Remember that you’re not Santa Clause. Your child will still have an amazing holiday season (because they get to spend it with their loved ones – you!), and they won’t even notice if you don’t get them one more toy above and beyond what you’ve already got them. Sometimes I worry that the whole sentiment around Christmas has become a bit lost when I look at how much some people will spend just on presents alone. Rather than tons of presents this year, let’s work to be present. Instead of blowing our money on gifts, let’s go make snow angels or snowmen with our loved ones. Let’s claim back what the true holiday spirit is – light, love, and laughter! By creating a budget, you can take the guesswork out of if you should buy something for someone or not; you can just ask yourself, is this in the budget? And, if it’s something that this person MUST have, then what item will you not be purchasing when you adjust your budget? I am a major culprit for wanting to overspend. I always tell myself, “they deserve it!” or “that’s the PERFECT gift for them!” even if I’ve already bought, wrapped, and placed their present under the tree. Sometimes this is a good sign to grab things for a later celebration like their birthday, but more often than not, you just need to be able to tell yourself ‘no’ and have the self-discipline to stick to the budget you have already allotted yourself. Although it’s not easy with temptation all around, creating a budget and sticking to it during the holiday season can save you much undue stress so that you can truly enjoy the holidays and live your best life. 

Brown and White Pastry on White Ceramic Plate

5. Don’t Abandon Healthy Habits 

Other than setting financial boundaries, something else many people struggle with during the holiday season is sticking to the healthy routines they have established in their normal lives. Many of us think that the holidays are a special time, and while they totally are, that does not mean you should completely abandon the healthy habits you’ve cultivated. In fact, having healthy habits that you can lean into throughout the holidays will actually help keep you more grounded and alleviates any stress at the root. For example, when I am not home, I often don’t follow my usual routines at all, and I find that after a few days of skipping what’s normal for me, I feel completely out of whack. It’s not until I come home and re-instill the healthy habits that I get back to normal. So, next time, instead of letting it go in the first place, I am committed to integrating my healthy routines no matter where I go. This involves morning journaling, moving my body, walking my dogs, and taking my vitamins – which is truly the bare minimum that I owe my body for all it does for me. On another note regarding healthy habits, as someone who has Body Dysmorphic Disorder and a complex relationship with food, I understand how overwhelming it can be to face the amount of food the holidays bring. Personally, I always struggle with overeating on the holidays, and once again, a remedy for this is not to abandon the healthy habits you’ve had all year. So for me, I will try to have my usual breakfast, a little bit smaller portion of lunch, and then the big turkey dinner, instead of going ham all day (Christmas dinner pun, anyone?). Moderation is key, and being able to hold onto your healthy habits during the holidays will help alleviate any unnecessary stress you may feel so that you can fire your old self to create your new, best self and enjoy the holiday season to its fullest. 

Final Thoughts  In the end, there are many reasons why someone might be feeling stressed with the holidays approaching, and whichever one you thought of when you read the title of this article is the one you should take extra care to manage this season. As we’ve seen, I need to work on continuing my healthy habits into the holiday season, not just dropping them completely, and allowing myself to feel the pain of my Papa’s death anniversary, perhaps even share in it, without letting it completely overtake my holiday cheer. Sometimes I feel like I don’t want to put a damper on things by bringing up my pain, but thinking in this way is self-detrimental, and I know my loved ones are there to support me through things like this, so I need to be more open about that moving forward. Besides acknowledging your feelings and reach out, we’ve also seen how learning how to say ‘no’ can have a tremendous impact on your overall mental well-being and how the method can be applied to sticking to your budget during the holidays. Depending on the source of your holiday stress, each of these tips may be more applicable than others. However, it’s always important to keep an open mind and work towards becoming your best self through constant growth and change. Therefore, integrating the tips we’ve discussed here is crucial going into the holidays to better learn how to cope with holiday stress so that we may fire our old self to create our new self while remembering Life’s Short, Love the Life You Live!

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Dani VanDusen

Dani VanDusen is a freelance writer and editor located in St. Albert, Alberta, Canada. She holds a BA in English from the University of Alberta where she graduated with distinction, and has been freelancing since the middle of the pandemic. An avid mental health enthusiast, rollerblade extraordinaire, dog mama, and pizza lover, she is a self-proclaimed ‘weirdo’ and says that this helps her be relatable and open in her writing. Dani has been a writer for the Fire Yourself movement since August 2021 and is an integral part of our content team.
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