Ah, the Christmas season. For some, this is a wonderful time of year filled with God, love, peace, joy, laughter, optimism, fellowship, family, friends, good food, giving, winter activities, cozy evenings, and fond memories.
It also can be a time for stress, anxiety, sadness, frustration, hurry, loneliness, disappointment, depression, overworking, overeating, and overspending.
Many people find the time leading up to and during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years to be stressful.
There’s shopping, cooking, cleaning, parties, travel, crowds, the onslaught of advertising telling us about everything we “should” have, expectations, positive and negative anticipation, the fear of failure (giving the “wrong” gifts, an unsuccessful party, disappointing food, inappropriate clothes), the pressure from our children about what they “want,” and the ingestion of sweets, treats, drinks, extra calories, and so on.
But, there is good news! Being proactive in your holiday planning can turn an otherwise stressful Christmas season into an enjoyable and memorable one. Here are 10 ways to a happier and less stressed Christmas season:
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1. Manage Your Stress Moment By Moment
It’s better to manage your stress moment by moment rather than trying to get caught up on stress reduction after the fact. That’s because once the body becomes chronically stressed (hyperstimulated), it can take a long time to recover, and often much longer than most people realize. For instance, research shows it can take the body four times as long to recover from the adverse effects of stress as it does to incur them.
Keeping an eye on your level of stress leading up to and during the Christmas season, then taking corrective action each day, can prevent a build-up of unnecessary stress, its symptoms, and what’s often a protracted recovery.
Being more deliberate about your holiday plans so that your holidays are less stressful can make a meaningful difference in how you will feel physically, psychologically, and emotionally during AND after the Christmas holiday season.
2. Start Early, Plan Ahead
Feeling like you have too much to do and not enough time to do it can be stressful. You can eliminate this stress by starting early and planning ahead.
For example, you can start your Christmas season preparations during the summer months by planning and arranging for family festivities, deciding what budget to spend and the gifts to spend it on, the meals you want to make, the activities you want to plan or attend, etc. Then, take your time over the next four months bringing it all together.
Taking a leisurely run up to the Christmas season can reduce a significant amount of stress. It can also free up plenty of time for you to relax and enjoy the Christmas season instead of rushing to and through it.
3. Take Rest Breaks
Taking regular rest breaks is a great way to minimize the build-up of stress. Resting and relaxing each day can keep your body and mind healthy, especially during busy or pressure-filled times like the Christmas holiday season.
Resting for even five minutes here and there throughout the day can be enough to offset a build-up of stress.
Moreover, frequent rest breaks can also help make up for lost sleep. In fact, if you can’t sleep, rest. Rest reduces the body’s stimulation, which can make it easier for the Sleep Mechanism to engage. The more rested the body, the easier it is to sleep.
Also, it’s not selfish to take time out to rest. Taking frequent rest breaks can be an important self-care practice.
4. Be Realistic
Life isn’t perfect. It’s never going to be. That’s the reality we need to embrace. Consequently, we have to be realistic with things not being perfect, including how the Christmas season plays out.
There will be disappointments, things that don’t turn out “just right,” and problems that crop up. Learning to accept the imperfections in life and rolling with them can reduce a significant amount of stress, especially for people who are perfectionists.
Being more realistic about life can also enhance the quality of your life experience. Being realistic will allow you to enjoy “what is” rather than being disappointed or upset by what “should have been.”
5. Be Mindful Of What You Eat And Drink
It’s easy to get caught up in all of the food choices during the Christmas holiday season. Overeating, eating too much of a “seasonal” favorite, and drinking too much alcohol are common causes of stress.
Many people give themselves permission to forget about their diets and celebrate the holidays with indulging in anything and any time they want. While loosening up a little to feast is healthy, throwing caution to the wind and then paying for it with months of recovery may not be the best choice.
This year rather than overindulging, “sample” and consume less overall. Also, consume slower. Because it takes approximately twenty minutes for the stomach to let the brain know it’s had enough, consuming slower can help you consume less and still feel satisfied.
You can also try consuming a little bit at a time, then give yourself twenty minutes before you eat more. You might discover that you don’t need or want as much as you initially thought.
Also remember that foods high in sugar, stimulants, and alcohol stress the body. While they might taste good going in, they WILL stress your body and nervous system.
Being selective about what you consume and watching the amount can help prevent the unnecessary stress that comes from undisciplined eating. The more you manage your stress now, the less of an issue it will be after the Christmas season is over.
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6. Learn To Get Along And Accept Each Other’s Uniqueness
We are not all the same, and that’s a good thing. Imagine how boring life would be if we all did the same things, looked the same, dressed the same, lived in the same style of house, believed the same things, talked the same way, and so on.
Uniqueness fills our world with the full spectrum of color. Learn to enjoy each other’s uniqueness without being judgmental. Remember, the way you behave and approach life is just one way. It’s not the only way.
Rather than being critical, healthy people are accepting and respectful. Being accepting and respectful can significantly reduce stress and unhappiness.
During this Christmas season (and throughout the year) find ways to APPRECIATE the differences of others. You might even be surprised at how much better YOU feel.
This doesn’t mean you need to accept or agree with all viewpoints, which would be unrealistic and patronizing. But you can respect the fact that each person has a right to believe whatever they choose, and that agreeing to disagree is healthy.
7. Healthy People Can Say And Hear “No”
“No” is one of the most powerful words you can say. “No” lets other people know where your boundaries are.
“No” protects your freedom. “No” separates your desires and preferences from someone else’s. Saying “no” allows you to live authentically.
Saying “no” is not being selfish. You shouldn’t feel guilty for saying “no.” Saying “no” to something means you can say “yes” to something else.
Being selective in what you choose to engage in during the Christmas season puts you in control of your life experience rather than having others dictate it to you.
Just as healthy people can say “no,” they can also hear and respect another person’s “no.” If you can’t hear and respect someone’s “no,” you have some Boundaries work to do.
Hearing and respecting someone’s “no” means you are a respecter of people’s boundaries. Adopting and respecting healthy boundaries is an example of healthy behavior.
During the Christmas holiday season, having the ability to hear and respect someone’s “no” can not only prevent damaged relationships from unrealistic expectations and unhealthy boundaries but it can also reduce a lot of the stress and negativity that typically comes from relationships where “no” is viewed as unacceptable.
Keep in mind that “no” doesn’t mean people don’t like you or don’t want to be with you. It just means that that person has exercised his or her right to live authentically in that particular situation.
Healthy relationships can withstand “no’s.” In fact, healthy relationships are built on the ability to hear and respect BOTH “yes” and “no.”
8. Take Some “You” Time
There usually is a lot to do during the Christmas season. Many of the items on the “To Do” list have strict time limits, which can keep you going throughout the entire season if you let them.
Managing your stress well during the Christmas season, however, can make the difference between having fun and feeling good, and racing to get things done and feeling poorly both during and after the season is over.
To break up the busyness, make sure to plan in some “you” time among all of the other “To Do” items on your list.
For instance, make time in each day to go for a walk; read a favorite book or magazine; listen to your favorite music or radio program; watch a favorite movie or TV program; go for a warm beverage by yourself; take a bath; take a nap; do a deep relaxation exercise; go for a workout by yourself; go for a drive in the country; watch a sunset; and so on.
Everyone needs “alone” time. It’s wonderfully therapeutic. This is especially true during otherwise busy times like the Christmas season.
Furthermore, many of the “you” activities are effective stress reduction strategies. Being a good stress manager means more fun and less recovery time after the Christmas season is over.
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9. Pace Yourself, Know When To Stop
It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and spend your energy in one or two nights of fun and socializing. But because the Christmas season can extend over a week or more, it’s easy to burn out early in the holidays.
To protect against holiday burnout, be sure to spread your energy out over the entire Christmas season. This way you’ll enjoy the bulk of the Christmas experience and not feel burnt out toward the end, and especially after the Christmas season is over.
Moreover, there is often a fine line between getting everything done and going too far. Know your limits. And, know when to stop.
Just because it’s easy to go, go, go doesn’t mean you need to or that it’s good for you. Measure each day and be sure to allocate sufficient time for both the work of the Christmas season and the joy of it.
Remember, Christmas is your holiday, too! It’s healthy to make enough time for fun amidst the work that needs to be done.
One way you can accomplish this is by setting time limits each day for the work and for the fun. For example, you could plan your mornings and early afternoon for the work that needs to be done, and then the rest of the day to be with family and having fun.
Balancing work with fun and rest keeps stress levels in check.
10. Remember The Reason For The Season
All of us have a great deal to be thankful for. Too often we focus on what we don’t have rather than appreciating what we do have. What creates contentment and peace is loving and appreciating what we have rather than desiring or envying what we don’t have.
Being thankful can infuse every moment with joy, peace, and contentment. Gratitude also reduces stress.
The greatest gift we can ever receive is the gift God gave us. Christmas day is the day Christians choose to celebrate God’s great gift – the arrival on earth in the person of Jesus Christ! God came to be with us to demonstrate His reality to the world and to make a way for us to come back into relationship with Him.
So, in among the holiday preparations and celebrations, take some time to remember the reason for the season. God’s gift truly is an unspeakable gift that we may not fully appreciate until we join Him in heaven.
In the spirit of Christmas—love, compassion, generosity, understanding, forgiveness, mercy, and grace—all of us at anxietycentre.com wish you a very Merry and blessed Christmas season!
For 70 more tips on how to have a less stressed Christmas, Recovery Support members can read the article “80 Ways To Have A Happier And Less Stressed Christmas Season” in Chapter 14 in the Recovery Support area.
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