'Tis the Season to be Stressed AF
Let me hit you with some seasonal stats.
Holiday stress and overindulgence seem to explain the soaring rate of fatal heart attacks in December and January with heart related deaths increasing 5% during the holidays.
A poll by the American Psychological Association shows that 8 out of 10 people anticipate increased stress over the holidays. In some cases, the increase in stress and anxiety may even lead to depression.
Police, psychiatrists, and hospitals all report that there is a dramatic rise in alcoholic slips, drug overdoses, domestic quarrels, hotline calls, and emergency medical calls at this time of year.
Heavy stuff. How can we protect ourselves from this in our little cocoons of merry cheer? Here are a few places to start:
The holidays are full of competing priorities, families and traditions. We are inundated with holiday related invitations, preparation and activities. On top of all that, we have to find time to maintain status quo work hustle and blossoming social lives. For some reason everything feels necessary for a good holiday - like you have to say yes because saying no will make you feel like the Grinch.
Confidently but politely decline. Confidence is key because you can’t beat yourself up after with guilt and FOMO. Know your limitations and know that the people who care about you will understand you can't do it all, and if they don't it’s a good time to start setting healthy boundaries.
Traditions. Even the word makes you feel like letting go of them is doing a disservice to the universe somehow. When you have traditions that you are clearly dreading, don’t be afraid to adjust them. This may hit home with topics like divorce, separation, or loss of a loved one. Doing things the way they always were doesn’t always bring joy. Know that it is OK to start establishing new traditions that do bring you joy.
Be realistic and have realistic expectations. Most advertisements and social media make us feel like everyone is experiencing constant Christmas perfection but this is just not the case. Remember Instagram isn’t reality. Take some time to think about what is important to you and your family this holiday season and set a realistic intention around that to be your guiding star to ground you this season.
We can all relate to crazy family dynamics, and the stress of the holidays only compounds this - your uncle that only wants to talk politics, your aunt who wants to know when you * insert whatever milestone society says you should be at *, your competitive sibling, your mom who critiques everything you do. Often times our family can become emotional triggers for us more so than our friends or coworkers ever could be.
Be a non-judgmental 3rd party observer to your feelings. Peel back the layers and get to the root of the issue - Why am I feeling this way? What's triggering this? How do I want to react to this situation? This will give you distance so you don’t get too emotionally involved in these trigger situations.
Understand everyone is under the same seasonal stress as you. If you feel impulses coming on - take an adult time out! Go take a walk around the block, be in nature, focus on your breath, and clear your head.
Set aside your differences for the holidays. Allow people to have their own opinions and autonomy. You are in charge of your own joy and thoughts. Don’t let others rob you of your holiday joy!
It is important year around but even more during the holiday season when its easy to get run down and focus so much on others that you fall to the wayside. Caring for yourself will make you a better coworker, family member, partner, and friend.
Limit your tech. Constant cell phone buzzes and alerts keep us in an everlasting fight-or-flight mode due to bursts of adrenaline. Not only is this exhausting, but it contributes to mounting stress levels.
Engage in gratitude. Research shows that just pondering the question, "What am I grateful for?" increases dopamine and serotonin (happy hormones), even if you don’t actually think of an answer. Put up a post-it note somewhere visible to serve as a reminder (like your bathroom mirror) and start each day with a few moments of gratitude. It can be as simple as: I am grateful for this hot delicious cup of coffee.
Be present. Think about the present as a gift - a fleeting moment that you will never get back. Its easy to get so caught up in holiday planning that you lose the ability to experience the magical moments happening around you because you are so distracted. Being present allows your brain to dedicate resources to create lasting memories.
Taking care of yourself is one of the best gifts you can give because it allows you to give the best of yourself. Happy holidays and love yourself abundantly!