Holiday stress is hitting us like never before. As this year comes to a close, we are all under more pressure than ever, and this is saying something. While touted as a time of serene relaxation surrounded by loved ones, the holidays are, in fact, stress machines. Science even backs us up here. Multiple studies reveal how much stress the holiday season can bring upon even the stoutest of us. But it does not have to be this way.
Innova Primary Care is invested in the whole person. We approach healthcare from all angles: mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional. We know that Christmas can be a less than joyous time for so many, and we want to help you find the spark you need to thrive as the clock winds down on this year.
Holiday Stress Comes in Many Forms
What affects one person significantly may not be an issue for another. Yes, holiday stress is a real thing. According to a survey of over 2,000 adults, seventy-seven percent of those surveyed said they struggle to wind down and relax during the holidays. Many respondents said they end up more frazzled than when the holiday season began. Why? Many reasons.
While stress is a natural part of life and can be positive in some situations, prolonged stress can have adverse effects on the body and mind. Stress can also cause behavioral issues. Stress may cause blood pressure to rise, cause heart palpitation, fatigue, and muscle pain. When we are stressed out, we may feel anxious, restless, overwhelmed, angry, even depressed. Behaviorally, stress may cause us to act in ways that are not like us, such as overeating, lethargy, withdrawal, etc. And to think the happiest time of the year can lead to such disarray in our lives. It does not have to be this way. Let’s take a look at why so many of us feel excessive stress during this time.
Shopping, Gifts, Money – Holiday Stress
Holiday spending on everything from gifts, travel, food, and accommodations leads to stress for over sixty-percent of us. For many, there is a fear of how they will pay for gifts. Others are afraid of letting their children down and allow that pressure to create uncontrollable spending habits leading to debt. Twenty percent of people are still paying off debt from last Christmas.
So, yes, financial stress during the holidays is a real thing, especially true this year. A survey by Credit Karma found that over half of all Americans are concerned about how the holiday season this year will affect their finances compared to last year. This fear surrounds general concerns over financial standing and not being able to pay for gifts for those they love.
Are you one of the 54% who is feeling the financial stress more in 2020? If so, let’s look at a few ways you can help ease that stress.
First of all, it may be time to set a budget if you have not done so. By setting aside what you have to spend safely, you will do yourself so much good in the long run. If the fear of debt is stressing you out, knock it down by setting a firm budget and sticking to it.
After you set your budget, we suggest you have honest and open conversations with those you love about gift-giving expectations this year. This does not have to be an uncomfortable conversation; simply start by being truthful about your situation. Suggest cost-effective activities that you can share with one another. Set price limits on gifts. Get creative and offer ideas for homemade presents and offerings. Who knows, you may be responsible for creating an entirely new holiday tradition AND saving money at the same time.
Perfectionism and Holiday Stress
Sometimes the holidays feel like a race where the winner is the one with the best gifts, the loveliest decorations, and the most Christmas cards tacked to the wall. Many of us go “all-in” during the holidays, and it is this very mindset that can cause stress.
Now is a great time to admit that sometimes things won’t be picture perfect, and that is OKAY. Imperfection is normal and human. Does it really matter if your decorations don’t compare to your neighbors? Is it going to make a difference in the long run whether or not you have the most beautifully wrapped presents? Try asking yourself these questions when you feel the stress of perfectionism rearing its ugly head:
– Does this matter in the big picture?
– How can I let this feeling of stress become an opportunity for growth?
Schedules and Holiday Stress
Don’t have to let your calendar control you. Calendars can look a lot different over the holidays. Even if we aren’t doing school plays and having nights out on the town, there is still more than enough to fill our schedules the entire month of December. Did you know that close to seventy percent of us feel the squeeze of tight schedules during the holidays? You may never leave your home, but it feels like you always have to be somewhere.
Before you commit to everything you, stop and consider how the event or call will make you feel. Remember, it is perfectly acceptable to say no, even if it is only a video call. Respect your time and make decisions that fuel you, not stress you out.
On a final note, let’s talk alcohol. A tasty adult beverage to salute the season can be a great thing. However, drinking can increase during the holidays as well. We know many of us want nothing more than to hold onto something “normal” in a year like this, and for many, that becomes a drink. We are not saying that you must abstain, instead, be smart and know your limits long before you sip that eggnog or make the champagne toast.
While it may seem like a good idea (at the time) to drink up and be merry, alcohol often has the opposite effect.
Many holiday soirees, and yes, we know this year it looks different, are not complete without alcohol. In fact, alcohol plays a role in many gatherings during the holiday season. A study commissioned by Morning Recovery found that during the typical holiday season, Americans attend up to three social events, and each is laden with extra rich foods and libations. This means that more alcohol is on the menu, and many of us are more likely to consume it.
While we may not be gathering in person for large office parties or family events like previous years, people still plan to gather in some way, whether it be Zoom calls or outside socially distanced bashes. Alcohol will still be present. So, our tip is to be mindful of your limits and stick to them. Start with water first and keep your alcoholic beverages to a minimum. You will thank yourself in the morning.
Here is an excellent article from Bradford Health Services on relapse prevention during the holidays for anyone of you continuing your sobriety journey.
We know this post is a departure from our usual, but it is essential to recognize that stress (all kinds of stress) has a major impact on health and well-being. We are complex creatures, and what affects one system always affects the other. If your mind and spirit are out of alignment, your body will notice. If your body isn’t functioning at its best, your mind and heart will feel it too.
Innova Primary Care wants to see you experience renewal this Christmas season. Stress will undoubtedly arise, but you can make a plan for when the attacks occur and put the stress to rest.