It’s well-known to therapists, among researchers, and as a piece of common knowledge that the holidays are stress-inducing for almost everyone. Apart from a day or two around each holiday, we plan endlessly for elaborate get-togethers, without taking time off work, and with at least a few with whom we may have…strained relationships. It’s a process that lasts weeks, always ends up being more expensive than we expect, and leaves little time to schedule your own relaxation.
With Thanksgiving, the starting-gun for a marathon that ends with New Year’s, right around the corner, it’s important to be proactive, not just about your activities but about your stress levels (which are related!). The expectation that it’s supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year” makes it that much worse when you notice how little cheer you have left for yourself. So take a few minutes to consider some common sources of anxiety and some techniques for converting anxiety into anticipation!
Pick Your Poisons
Even before relationships and emotions get in the way, over-scheduling is the compounding factor that can ruin your holiday season. The happiest families, friends, and couples can only handle so many consecutive weekends of shopping, gatherings, social obligations—so consider how stressful it is to those of us with normal relationships! With this in mind, take the Thanksgiving dinner table advice to heart: don’t overdo it! Make a list or a calendar of your potential holiday obligations, and be thoughtful about what you choose to attend. For non-mandatory events, like meet-ups with friends, try to spread them out into January. Not only does it give you something to look forward to, but it eases your stress burden in December.
And don’t let anyone make you feel that you’re “skipping something important.” Everything is important this time of year, and treating each event like it’s mandatory waters down the pleasure we’re supposed to take in each other’s company.
How Much is Mistletoe Anyway?
Speaking of overdoing it, so many people report elevated stress levels over holiday budgeting. Kids and significant others need gifts, and our culture seems to have no way of valuing any gift that isn’t just perfect (read: expensive!). Consider this as you make your gift lists. Instead of buying gifts, plan events for couples or siblings that are mutual and that you might find yourself doing anyway. I know plenty of siblings with partners who plan a double-date for after the holiday season. It’s something you’re always trying to plan to do, and this way, you can give a gift that everyone can look forward to!
Kiss Your Santa Claus!
Couples and spouses face an especial amount of strain over the holidays, because so few gatherings are about them. You’re traveling to Grandma’s, buying kid’s presents, trying not to insult your spouse’s intoxicated boss at the holiday party. Knowing this in advance, say “no” to one of your higher-profile ‘obligations’, and replace it with a date night, spa night, or movie night with your partner. Cancelling is a good way of signalling to your partner (and to yourself!) how important alone-time can be for relationship health. And as long as you plan something romantic, you can look forward to opening one of your gifts a little early when you get home!