Give Yourself the Gift of a Low-Stress Holiday Season by Kristen Beckman
The holidays are a season that is supposed to be about happiness, family and celebration. But in reality, the holiday season often means additional stress, especially for women. According to the American Psychological Association, women are significantly more likely than men to worry about having money to purchase gifts and to experience an increased workload related to taking on tasks from gift purchasing to cooking and hosting guests during the holidays.
The situation is exacerbated as the world heads into the second holiday season impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For those who experience additional stress during the holidays, there are a few steps that can help.
- Plan and prioritize. There are endless things to accomplish during the holidays on top of life’s everyday expectations associated with work and family. Thinking ahead and having a plan to accomplish your holiday goals can eliminate the stress that comes with last-minute tasks. We tend to go overboard, especially during the holidays, and the Office on Women’s Health encourages women to pare down their holiday to-do list by giving yourself permission to do fewer things or eliminate tasks you don’t enjoy.
- Take time for yourself. APA urges people to remember that they can only accomplish so much during the holidays, and self-care should be on the to-do list. When you take care of yourself, you are more likely to have the energy and bandwidth to take care of everyone and everything else that you want to. Even simple activities such as going for a walk, listening to music or taking time to read a book can be effective at reducing stress.
- Be realistic. Even when you take the time to recharge your batteries, it’s also important to remember that there are limits to what you can realistically do. No celebration will be perfect, so don’t aim for perfection. Instead, accept and embrace the inevitable foibles, knowing that those imperfections often become favorite memories. In addition, being realistic about budgets for holiday gifts and celebrations can limit anxiety for all.
- Keep a healthy perspective. If you find holiday expectations are creating unhealthy pressure, take a few moments to remember what is important about the season – whether for you it is a religious observance or a time to celebrate being with friends and family. Finding time to volunteer to help others can help re-focus attention on what is truly important during the holidays.
- Be confident. The holidays can generate plenty of guilt, especially when you make the decision to simplify and take time for yourself. Don’t let the expectations of others make you feel bad about your choices or plans. Ultimately, the best gift you can give yourself and everyone who you love and who loves you is holiday season that isn’t overshadowed by stress.