While the holidays are a time for joy and sharing, they can also be a time of physical and mental stress, said Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialists.
“There are many behavioral and logistical changes you can make during the holidays to lower stress and benefit your overall wellness,” said Joyce Cavanagh, AgriLife Extension specialist in family economics, College Station.
Prioritize and plan to help reduce stress
Managing holiday stress requires setting priorities as well as avoiding or reducing as many stressors as possible, Cavanagh said.
“Holiday stress can come about from interpersonal relationships, financial pressures, time management issues, lack of sleep and a variety of other stressors,” she said. “Financial pressure and time restrictions are often the top stressors during the holidays, so be sure to adequately plan your holiday shopping and family time.”
Cavanagh said be sure to budget for gifts to be purchased during holiday shopping pay using cash or a debit card whenever possible. Be realistic when creating a budget by using real prices, not ballpark figures. And don’t forget to include extra travel, food and entertaining costs into your holiday budget.
“If you must buy with credit, act as if you have far less than your actual credit limit,” she said. “And remember your credit card interest rate to remind you to be more frugal about using credit.”
Cavanagh said stress also occurs as a result of not adequately keeping track of purchases.
“Make note of what you’ve bought, how much you’ve spent and who you’ve bought for,” she said. “Jot down items and prices on a note pad or electronic device.”
Count your calories—and blessings
Cavanagh said holiday stress can lead to overeating, which is one of the biggest challenges to individual wellness during this time of year.
“Try not to eat during periods of high stress,” she said. “Be aware of what and when you eat, but don’t think you have to starve yourself to make room for holiday meals.”
Remember to focus on your blessings instead of trying to keep up with the Smiths or Joneses, said Angela McCorkle, AgriLife Extension program specialist.
“Basing expectations or experiences on what we see on social media or in the lives of others can cause stress,” McCorkle said. “We can cause ourselves undue pressure to create share-worthy memories rather than enjoying the time with loved ones. Don’t worry about what others are doing and just focus on the positive things you have instead of concerning yourself with what others have or what you might be missing.”
Consider thrifty gifting
McCorkle added there are ways to honor special holidays that cut stress and need little or no spending.
“If gifts are part of the holiday celebration, don’t let the pressure of giving gifts surpass your ability to pay for them,” she said, “Consider exchanging hand-made gifts such as soaps, baked goods or framed family photos.”
Make time for rest, exercise and recreation
Cavanagh said a lot of time-management-related stress can be alleviated by allowing additional time when scheduling visits or entertaining others, and by asking for help with holiday activities.
“Try to avoid multiple visits and pad your time to provide flexibility and accommodate any unforeseen circumstances,” she said. “Prioritize what’s really important to you and your family, then plan your holiday activities accordingly.”
McCorkle stressed the importance of getting adequate sleep and finding a way to incorporate some sort of physical activity into your holiday schedule.
She also noted while some people draw energy from being around people, others may find it stressful or draining.
“Whether you draw or discharge energy from being around others, it’s always wise to schedule in some relaxation time,” she said. “Take a short nap or a walk or do some reading—whatever you’d normally do to get some private time to recharge your mind and body.”