November Kickoff: Your Blueprint for a Stress-Free Holiday Season
Holidays are the most wonderful time of the year. It's a time to dine and wine with friends, take time off work to travel, or enjoy family time and the needed rest at home. But it comes with its fair share of trouble: holiday stress. Between cooking, entertaining guests, making holiday travel arrangements, endless shopping, cooking, cleaning, and wrapping gifts while keeping an eye on the looming credit card bill, holidays can be the most stressful time of the year.
The pressure to have a perfect holiday causes unwanted stress and depression, a far cry from the happiness it's supposed to bring. But it doesn't have to be so. We're supposed to be joyful at the sound of jingle bells, decorated malls with Christmas decor, and unending meals, right? In this article, we share how to avoid holiday stress starting in November and some of the triggers you should watch out for to reduce stress and help you enjoy the holiday you deserve after a long working year.
Triggers of Holiday Stress
Before we discuss how to avoid holiday stress starting in November, let’s first look at some of the triggers you should watch out for.
1. Social events
Bouncing from one event to another can be a trigger, particularly events set by others that may be out of your social calendar. There are social expectations from your friends and family, and you may struggle to say no. Yet, trying to attend all the activities can leave you with less time to prioritize your own needs. It also means that you will spend most of the time commuting and shopping for food and gifts, which can strain your budget and cause unwanted stress.
2. Lots of free time
Even though we all desire downtime and getting off work or school during the holidays, the truth is having a lot of free time can trigger stress. When you are busy at work, your focus is on meeting deadlines, commuting, and collaborating with your workmates, and you have less time to feel anxious or focus on what's not working. On the flip side, the holidays come with a lot of personal time that doesn't need you to be in a routine, and you may notice you have no idea how to spend your time if you're used to your normal routine.
3. Extended family time
The holidays bring your relatives together for a long period. It is easier when you meet a few times a year, but staying together all the time during the holidays can bring a lot of pressure and expectations. Moreover, the extended time may unravel the tense relationships in most families and cause unnecessary stress.
Spending time with family can also open unhealed wounds from the past and get you back to old versions of yourself that you thought you had left behind. This triggers feelings of anxiety and pressure to conform to family patterns you were used to in the past.
There's always pressure to be a perfect host. But this can make you feel overwhelmed because you try too hard and have unrealistic expectations either from yourself or trying to meet the ideals imposed by others. Moreover, juggling too many tasks and overseeing many details to be the perfect host requires time management skills, which may not come naturally to everyone. When you agree to be a host, there's more to it than that. You'll have to shop for food, cook, and clean the house before and after. It takes experience to feel comfortable and relaxed as a host.
How to Avoid Holiday Stress Starting November
1. Plan your finances
Most people extend their limits throughout the holiday season. It may be tempting to increase the spending limits to get the holiday of your dreams. But every time you get out your credit card, you may feel more disappointed for overspending, or sad if you don't have enough resources to get gifts or participate in holiday activities.
You may also feel anxiety about your financial wellbeing as you enter the New Year. Feeling depressed about your finances can make you resent the holiday or people in your life that make you feel you must travel, spend, or shop when you should save instead.
2. Have a morning routine
How you start your morning determines the mood for the rest of the day. Don't drop your morning routine just because you're not going to work. Schedule some time in the morning and go for a walk, and do activities that take care of you. That way, you reclaim a sense of yourself despite the holiday activities. If you struggle with anxiety during the holiday, try waking up earlier before anyone else and do your self-care routine. You'll notice you'll be centered and feel in control throughout the day when you have rejuvenating “me time.”
3. Keep up with healthy habits
It is easy to throw away the effort you put out during the year and throw your healthy habits out of the window. But it is more stressful to start afresh every New Year after the holidays. Furthermore, being physically active boosts your mood and reduces anxiety and stress. As we get into the holiday season, make a pact with yourself to continue with your healthy habits. Decide that you’ll keep up with regular exercise, eat healthy meals, and limit processed and sugary foods.
You may not find time to go to the gym every day, so don’t beat yourself up for that. Incorporate simple activities into your holiday routine, like walking, playing with your kids, or cycling around the neighborhood. Encourage your kids and whole family to join you in the activities to make it more fun.
4. Give up the idea of perfection
It is impossible to have everything work out as perfectly as you wanted. So, allow some room for error and allow others to help you. Make the decor with the kids, even though it may be messy. Remember that you're also making memories. Avoid comparing your holiday plans or experiences with others, whether online or offline. The picture-perfect Instagram feed is good for inspiration, but remember that people only show the good side. Don't idolize perfection, as it will only frustrate your holiday experience.
Also, don't compare the past holidays with the current. Life changes in many ways. You may have afforded all the luxuries in the past but have to do with a little budget this holiday. It's okay. Do what you can now and be optimistic that the future will improve.
5. Plan activities ahead of time
Always be prepared as much as you can to prevent some stressful situations that you can avoid. Time moves so fast, and minutes add up so quickly, and before you know it, your guests will be knocking on the door.
Buy nonperishable foods such as freeze dried products now in November and buy the rest of the food a week before and freeze them. Wrap gifts beforehand, even if you'll do one at a time. Tidy up the guest rooms to get away with it. Also, get your family involved in other house duties. Your kids can help stick holiday stamps in the cards, and your spouse can help do the shopping and the cooking, setting the table, or keeping the guests company.
6. Limit your commitments
The holiday season has parties, outings, and family gatherings back to back, and it can feel overwhelming to attend all of them. Only attend events that mean the most to you and skip those you're not okay to attend. Don't feel pressured to join family events that may be triggering. Your mental health comes first. Allow yourself to choose what's okay with you and avoid what's not. Simply tell people that you have other plans.
If you have to attend family gatherings, have a discussion beforehand and agree to keep controversial topics such as career, politics, or relationships out of discussion as these are what most people feud about. It’s also good to check your relationship with your family during the year and solve any pending issues so that the hurt and resentment don’t build up and blow up over the holidays.
7. Take time to reflect
The holiday season signals the end of a year and the beginning of another. Take time to take stock of the year, reconnect with yourself, and plan to start the New Year on the right foot with self-awareness. Sometimes, stress comes when you focus on what you didn't do. Reflect on what worked and didn't and forge the way forward. Write a list of at least ten things that you’re grateful for. You may realize that you achieved much more than you think.
Often, the holidays magnify the feeling of inadequacy, particularly for people already struggling with anxiety or mental conditions. Most people feel pressured to meet external standards of what others perceive as a good life. As we enter the holiday season, reflect on the triggers so that you can deal with them early enough to reduce stress and enjoy the holiday season. The seven tips above will be helpful for you if you are wondering how to avoid holiday stress starting November 2023.
- Branden Evans