Do the holidays have you stressed?

Tis’ the season of joy, comfort and giving…well, not for everyone. Let’s face it – this can be the most stressful time of the year, whether it’s financial stress or the loss of a loved one that puts a damper on your spirits. A recent study from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that three in every four people feel more anxious and depressed during the holidays. Let’s not forget, stress is linked to the following:

  • heart disease
  • cancer
  • depression
  • obesity
  • sleep problems
  • high blood pressure
  • digestive problems
  • chronic pain
  • migraines
  • anxiety
  • autoimmune diseases
  • skin conditions

All of these things can lead to major health expenses and speed up the aging process as well.

The Consumer Report’s National Research Center put together a list of common reasons why people dread the holidays, so I’ve put together a list of solutions you could follow to help you have a happier holiday.

#1 – Crowds and Long Lines

Crowds, crowds, everywhere there are crowds. In fact, 68% of people say they hate the crowds that come with the holidays. Unless you love people watching, this can be your worst nightmare. Take advantage of small-business deals and support them at the same time. You can avoid a great deal of traffic you would otherwise get at local chain retail stores, so it’s a win-win!! Lucky you, you can find just about anything online and most promotions during the holidays include free shipping. “Hello! Thank you. Next!”

#2 – Gaining Weight

That stubborn sweet tooth can get the best of anyone. 37% of those surveyed say they dread gaining weight during the holidays. That’s okay because you might catch the sale going on at your local gym. There’s a good chance they’re offering discounted memberships as an end-of-the-year promotion.

Instead of using a large plate, grab a small dessert plate as your entree plate instead. The key is to not over-indulge. Listen to your inner appetite and go for the things that you only get a few times of the year. Yes, that means you can have that slice of pecan pie. 🙂

#3 – Getting Into Debt

Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years is NOT only about gift receiving or gift-giving, especially at the expense of someone who can’t afford it. My 9-year-old understands this, so should any given adult as well. The holidays are intended to get a bunch of loud, messy, mismatched people around a table that don’t get time to see each other or catch up routinely. 37% of those studied say they dread getting into debt during the holidays. Putting yourself in a crunch just to make ends meet around the holidays is a heavy burden I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. I am a firm believer your memories are based more so on events than material objects – meaning if you decided to make a tradition of going Christmas-light watching around nearby neighborhoods, those memories will set well with your kids. That will be more memorable than the lego set with more missing pieces than you’ll be able to find in three months time. Choose a few presents with care and go for quality over quantity.

#4 Gift shopping

Avoid it if you want, but this is an opportunity to create memories with your family. 28% of people say they dread the task of gift shopping the most. Get a group of friends together, hit the stores and make a lunch date out of it.
Homemade gifts save money and give you the opportunity to creatively tackle your gift list. It is also a great idea that can double up as a one-on-one activity with your kids! Whether it’s homemade holiday cookies, a nice gift basket or a few pictures taken over the summer put into handmade frames for Grandma and Grandpa, handmade gifts are never disappointing.

You can always take advantage of massage gift certificate specials! Purchase three and get a one-hour massage for free. You knocked off 3 people from your list and got a little something for yourself in the meantime. Who would be mad about that!?

#5 Traveling (25%)

25% of people say they just don’t like traveling for the holidays, but if you’re committed to going to Grandma’s house two states away, you might not have any other choice. Make the most of your travels. Discover the joys of the small things. Make pit stops and find things you would want to do while on holiday-leave, like stopping at your favorite school playground or a nearby park you remember as a child. These memories can positively impact your kids when you tell them your personal stories. Don’t forget to take pictures!

If that doesn’t work for you either, learn to say “No.” You don’t have to hit every holiday party you’re invited to, you don’t have to go to your sister’s house for New Year’s Eve and you surely don’t have to go shopping with your mom. The choice is always yours.

If there’s anything you don’t want to do, don’t do it. Just say “NO.” It might be a novel concept, but trust me, it’s really liberating.

There are plenty of things that might get our stress responses flowing during the holidays and we need to have a positive perspective and embrace what we have rather then what we don’t have. Have realistic expectations. Often people get stressed around the holidays just because they want the celebrations to be just as good as they remember them from their own childhood. Make the holidays what you want them to be, right now. Don’t put the bar so high that you make yourself miserable trying to reach it. Be here, now. The holidays as we know it can have an everlasting effect on your memory – make use of those strong senses and create them without letting the stress get to you!

Cheers – and Happy Holidays!