How to Prepare Yourself Now for Holiday Season Stress and Anxiety

The holidays are a time of happiness, joy, and celebration. But for many people, they can also be a time of stress and anxiety. If you're already starting to feel overwhelmed this holiday season, don't worry, you’re not alone. There are things that you can do to tap into your inner peace and boost your mood before, during and after the festivities.

Where does most holiday stress come from? What can you do to cope? This post will help you identify your stressors and make plans to proactively conquer them.

Identify and Conquer Your Holiday Stressors

The holidays can be a trying time for many people. There are several things that can contribute to holiday stress and angst. The following items will help you spot your trouble areas and give you positive tips to maintain and keep coming back to your inner peace.

Family Gatherings

In a perfect world, getting together with family would always be wonderful, but we don’t live in a perfect world. If you have difficult family relationships, holiday gatherings can be a massive source of stress.

You might be worried about what will happen if you get into an argument with a relative. You might wonder whether you’ll leave feeling sad that you didn’t feel seen or validated by your family members, yet again. You may feel dread when thinking about spending time with someone who often makes you feel bad about yourself. If family gatherings are a source of stress for you, there are things you can do to make the situation better.

Here are some tips:

  • Talk to your family member(s) in advance about your expectations for the gathering. This can help prevent misunderstandings and reduce stress.
  • Set boundaries with difficult family members. If someone always brings up touchy subjects or makes you feel uncomfortable, let them know you don't want to discuss certain topics.
  • Spend time with supportive family members and friends. These are the people who make you feel good about yourself, nourish you, boost you up and help you relax.
  • Take a break if you're feeling overwhelmed. Give yourself permission to step out for some fresh air or take a few minutes to yourself in another room.
  • Plan to do something nourishing or relaxing once you get home.

Financial Stress

For many people, the holidays are a time when money is tight. You’ve worked hard all year and tried to save but it’s hard when everything’s getting more expensive. You may spend more on gifts and travel than you can afford. Or, you may be worried about how you will pay your bills after the holiday season.

There are several things you can do to relieve financial stress during the holidays:

  • Make a budget and stick to it. Decide how much you can afford to spend on gifts, travel, and other holiday expenses. Then make a commitment to yourself not to exceed that amount.
  • Avoid using credit cards. If you can't afford to pay cash for something, don't buy it.
  • Don't compare yourself to others. Just because your friends and family are spending a lot of money on gifts doesn't mean you have to.
  • Be creative with your gift-giving. Instead of buying expensive gifts, give homemade gifts or make a donation to charity in someone's name.

Time Management Stress

Hitting the road to see family and friends, attending holiday parties, and taking part in other seasonal activities can leave you feeling frazzled and depleted. If you're having trouble managing your time during the holidays, here are some tips:

  • Mindfully take a look ahead at your schedule and see where you have gaps in your schedule to ensure you schedule in self-care activities.Schedule some time for relaxation, and don't feel guilty about it.
  • Make a list of the things you need to do and prioritize them. Don't try to do everything at once.
  • Delegate tasks to other people when possible. If you're hosting a holiday party, ask your friends and family to help with the preparations and/or meal.
  • Say no to things you don't really want to do. You don't have to attend every holiday event you're invited to. Choose the ones that are most important to you and enjoy them. Mindfully observe and accept any guilty feelings that arise and gently challenge any unhelpful thinking about saying no.
  • Take vacation days if you’re working to help you recuperate and offset your stressors.

Crowded Malls and Busy Stores

The holidays are a busy time for stores and malls. If you don't like crowds, the thought of fighting your way through a crowded mall can be stressful. Here are a few ways to make the situation better:

  • Shop online. You can avoid crowds and get your shopping done from the comfort of your own home.
  • Shop during off-peak hours. If you need to go to the store, try to shop when it's not as busy.
  • Take breaks. If you feel overwhelmed by the crowds, take mindful pauses and even take a break if you need to. Step outside or go sit in your car for a few minutes.

Dealing with Difficult People

You're bound to run into people who are unpleasant during the holiday season. Rude shoppers shouldn't steal your peace. Here are some tips for dealing with troublesome people:

  • Don't take it personally and don’t internalize their behaviour. The person may be having a bad day, or they may be dealing with personal issues. Practice healthy emotional boundaries when it comes to difficult people.
  • Keep your cool. Don't let the person upset you. Use your breath to stabilize your emotions and stay centred. Set the intention to remain calm and polite.
  • Avoid getting into arguments. If the person is trying to pick a fight, walk away or end the conversation.
  • Focus on the positives. There are bound to be other people who are pleasant to be around. Focus on them and try to forget about the difficult person. When a cashier or shopper is kind to you, let that land inside you.

Weather Conditions

Bad weather can ruin your holiday plans and leave you feeling stressed. If you're worried about the weather, there are a few things you can do to prepare:

  • Check the forecast ahead of time and plan your activities accordingly.
  • Dress appropriately for the conditions. Wear warm clothes if it's cold outside and rain gear if it's raining.
  • Be prepared for the worst. If you're traveling, make sure you have a Plan B in case bad weather ruins your original plans.
  • If you have to cancel plans to err on the side of caution, practice radical acceptance and mindful self-compassion for the difficult decision.

Expectations of the Perfect Holiday

Movies often portray the holidays as a time of perfect family gatherings, joyful celebrations, and generous giving. However, the reality is that the holidays can be stressful and difficult. If you're feeling stressed because your holiday doesn't look like the one you see on TV, remember that everyone's situation is different. Let go of any expectations that may be causing you stress and suffering. The important thing is that you enjoy the holidays your own way.

Stay Calm and Be Kind to Yourself

Identify your specific stressors and then make a proactive plan to conquer them. Be mindful of your mental health, take breaks when needed, and focus on the positives. When things don’t go the way you were hoping, practice regaining a sense of calm and being kind and compassionate to yourself. You can have a happy and low-stress holiday season with a little planning and effort.

The holiday season can be a stressful time for many people. However, there are things you can do to manage your stress and enjoy the holidays.