The holiday season experience is always fun and fulfilling when things are going well, but when things are on the fringe, your sanity might be too. Stress is a normal part of life but if it gets out of control it can easily affect your mental health, and influence tremendously how you feel physically and emotionally.
Stress is your body releasing hormones, signaling that this situation is different than what was hoped for. In any stressful situation, you have two options: you can either react or respond. Reacting is off the cuff and usually makes your stress levels worse. Responding is taking a deep breath and recognizing the emotion, then deciding what to do about it.
So, before you react and flip off food (or people) from the dining table, let’s look at a few tips to reduce stress and get you back to feeling all good. 🤗
Steps to Effectively Control Your Stress:
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1. Know and Respect Your Limits
Some of us love, love, I mean love planning and hosting. We love it so much we get hell-bent to do it all and eventually we start to say, “it’s no big deal” and “it’s going to be totally worth it.” Those are just a few phrases that we like to call, red flags. You are rationalizing the amount of work you’re taking on. You’re most likely doing too much, especially if you say them often.
If you haven’t gotten to this point yet, or you’re low-key there, we suggest you take a step back. Actually, take a leap back. Write down all the tasks you’ve given yourself and think about how many of those jobs could be delegated to someone else and done easily or comfortably. Don’t get stuck on the “if you want it done well, do it yourself” mentality because it’s not always true and if someone falls short, it tends to make for humorous chats.
For example, let someone else gather gingerbread supplies. Maybe you were imagining building a replica of Hogwarts but your helper might end up bringing supplies to recreate wonky barnyard animals that end up making everyone laugh their posteriors off.
Basically, remind yourself that you don’t have to do everything. Give yourself plenty of time to do what you are going to do, and ask for help when you need it! And no, passive-aggressiveness doesn’t count as asking for help. This goes for all things like packing up the family to cleaning the house, not just hosting the holidays.
2. Set Your Guests’ Expectations
Whether you want to host a bomb holiday dinner that could seat the Royal Family, or keep it sweet and simple, make sure your invitations mention things like what the attire is, if they need to bring anything, what time it starts (and ends if you want to be in bed at a certain time), etc. Comfort levels skyrocket when expectations are clear and easy to meet.
Don’t be afraid that you’re giving them too many rules. People like rules, in fact, we thrive with rules! It lets them know what they should expect when they arrive, how they should behave, and if they should make any special plans for your dinner – or after dinner if you tell them you want them to leave by 9 pm.
If you want everyone to show up super casual and welcome themselves to your pantry and fridge, tell them everything on the invite! Save the spontaneity for nights out. When you’re hosting things, it’s good to leave a little wiggle room, but most planners and many guests like having an idea of how the night is going to go.
3. Pick Your Battles
There are some things that on any other day of the year, you could spend time making yourself heard. Like leaving dishes in the sink or forgetting to take the trash out. Normally those are annoying, but when you have a million and one other things that are needing to be done, those aren’t worth stressing over. Plus, if you’re asking for help, you can bet that your family, friends, or roommates also have a few things on their mind.
Instead of stressing about the small things, focus on making sure the big things are under control. This will keep you from being constantly on edge and you might even feel more in control since you’ve set aside the standard worries for the other 11 months out of the year.
4. Budget — Weekly!
This time of year, money is flying out of every orifice. Money also happens to be the dominant source of stress for 44% of people in the United States. Shocker. It’s tempting to just put all gifts and groceries on the credit card, but you can end up spending the entire following year paying it off just to start over the following holiday season. That’s why we suggest that for at least the holiday season, try to budget weekly.
Going into every week with a budget keeps you from biting your nails every time you swipe your card at the store. Instead, you feel confident and relaxed that you’re well within your right to purchase what you’re getting.
You might already be on top of the game and budget every month, but the holidays are brimming with parties, get-togethers, spontaneous drink outings, and more! Since these events often happen on short notice, waking up in the morning with a big fat slap in the face by your bank account is quite commonplace this time of year.
Now, the holiday budget is a little different than the rest of the year. Start with a list of gifts, events, cards, wrapping paper, and traveling expenses that you are expecting. Next, try to find space in your normal budget where you can adjust certain habits to make more money for the holiday budget, and set aside this money.
You can organize it by event (Office Christmas Party, Family Christmas, In-Laws Dinner), or by general categories (outings, alcohol, gifts). It’s up to you, but no matter how you go about it, avoid spending more than you have with a credit card. It’s a dangerous plan and nine times out of ten, you end up more stressed out.
5. Shop Online for Gifts
Speaking of money… don’t make shopping harder than it needs to be. If you just happen to be out and about and finding a gift for someone, then absolutely get it. But nowadays you can online shop in almost any situation. Like while you’re standing in line to see the latest thriller, scrolling while ignoring that show you’ve seen four times, avoiding eye contact in waiting rooms… you get it.
We all know the beast that is Amazon and, oh, the glory of 2-day shipping. You’ve seen how it suggests other items as you go. So maybe if you’re stressing about how you’re going to get all the gifts, think about how bad the pre-internet generations had it. Perspective is everything.
In summary, take advantage of your downtime and cross those names off your shopping lists. Pro tip: if you can, get your shopping done by December 18th or before. This gives you time for shipping, days to relax before the big day, and time to wrap (or bag) the presents.
6. Exercise and Eat Healthy
Don’t skip this section! We know, it’s the holidays, we deserve a break. But, exercise has been proven time and time again to not only improve physical condition, but fight off diseases, maintain mental fitness, and even reduce stress. These are all things we need especially during the holidays!
Whether you prefer walking, running, yoga, hiking, swimming, it doesn’t really matter – deep breathing the biggest key to relieving stress. Imagine all the endorphins that are released during exercise are giving your brain a big warm hug or kneading out those stress hormones.
Once Thanksgiving hits and forward, it seems like the food is never-ending. While it is nice to splurge and eat till your heart is full and happy, your body spends so much effort digesting it that you can feel groggy. This can hold back how effective you are during your work out and affect your sleep. All of this trickles down and reduces how well your body manages stress.
7. Get Enough Sleep
Which brings us to our next point: sleep. Stress and sleep can easily slip into a dangerous relationship. Not sleeping can worsen your stress, and high-stress levels can keep you from sleeping. See, terrible. So, by taking the stress in your life seriously, you are also helping the quality of your sleep.
Your sleep is another reason why you should make sure you ask for help and delegate tasks. It’s not a good idea to stay up until 4 a.m. because you had to make (albeit adorable) 3-D Christmas tree cookies. The CDC has reported that people who get less than 7 hours of sleep have an increased risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stroke, depression, arthritis, and kidney disease! Yikes! Minimize the risk and get some sleep for goodness sake.
8. Declutter Before the Holiday
Unfortunately, most of the clutter you find throughout the year comes from holiday gifts. So, in preparation for this year’s slew of gifts, we suggest decluttering your home before the holiday. Aside from preparing, decluttering also helps make room for people to stay or hang out in your home.
You can declutter by going room by room or by tackling the main area that has built up clutter. For most homes, this happens in the living room but it could be different for you. You’re going to be shocked how much decluttering will help reduce your holiday stress.
Not sure where to begin getting rid of household clutter? Check out our how-to declutter guide.
Once you’ve figured out what you want to get rid of, consider which items can be donated or even re-gifted! For the items that are neither of those things, those pieces of junk are our treasures. Look into ways of properly disposing of them, perhaps through recycling. If you just have too many items or don’t have the time to dispose of household junk, consider calling a junk removal company like LoadUp. Remember our previous tip on delegating tasks? This is a perfect opportunity for you to get your junk removed while keeping your stress levels low.
Of course after the holidays you’re going to be gifted with more clutter and will need to deal with additional things that aren’t recyclable like piles of wrapping paper. Maintain the progress you made with reducing the clutter in your home before the holiday by decluttering once more after all your gift exchanges have concluded. Luckily, we have a handy guide ready to go on what to do with your post-holiday clutter as well.
9. Call or Skype Loved Ones
The holidays are known for all the love and cheer that comes with seeing loved ones. But for those of us that either live far away, had to spend the holiday with the in-laws instead of our own family, or just couldn’t make the event for whatever reason, all the “holiday cheer” can instead make frightfully aware of how you’re not with them.
Now is the perfect time to take advantage of video calling your family members. It’s not the same, we know, but it’s pretty amazing how less alone you feel when you see their face and hear their voice. Obviously, a phone call is good too, but the added sense of sight helps make the world feel smaller and like they’re not so far away.
10. Do Activities that You Love
Either at the end of the day or at the beginning of your day, you need to feel like yourself. If not you can have a bit of a mental break down similar to an identity crisis.
Instead of feeling like everyone’s chef, maid, party planner, personal shopper, interior designer, or a way less graceful Mary Poppins, ground yourself with things that make you feel like your cool-self again. The activity is especially unique to you so maybe video games work for your friend, but a glass of wine and a bubble bath could do the trick best for you.
You know yourself best! Even if you have to splurge, we say go for it. The holidays are for enjoyment, not torture.
Sleigh this Holiday with Self-Care ☃️
If you follow our tips and take care to meet your personal needs, your body (and your loved ones) will thank you! Remember, stress is inevitable but how we manage it can make or break mental health. Always think about ways you can respond by either facing the issue or, if it’s out of your control, then determine ways to stop it from controlling you. You’ve got this! Your friends at LoadUp want to wish you a very merry Christmas and healthy, happy holidays!