It’s the most wonderful time of the year – except for many people, it’s anything but.
If the holidays bring more stress than cheer for you, you’re not alone. The holidays are a time of year when obligations seem to pile up. You may have family gatherings to attend and shopping to complete. And if you’re working on top of that through the holidays, then life could quickly start feeling overwhelming this time of year.
The holidays may not be “stress-free” for anyone. But with these tips, you can make sure you’re protecting your mental well-being while you navigate all the challenges the season throws at you.
Here are 7 tips to cope with holiday stress both at work and at home.
1. Take a break
Some companies close down for the holidays. But even if your workplace doesn’t, you may want to consider the possibility of taking some time away. Taking a break can be a good way to intentionally slow down during this hectic time of year.
Talk to your supervisor about the possibility of taking some time away. If you work in a setting that’s busier than usual (and impossible to escape) during the holidays – such as in retail – you can still talk to your supervisor about when it might be possible for you to take some time off. Having a vacation to look forward to may help you get through the stress of the season.
There are also smaller, but still impactful, ways to take breaks that don’t require you to go on a lengthy vacation. For example, go out for a nice lunch instead of eating at your desk. Take the long, scenic way home from work. Practice a 5-minute mindfulness meditation.
2. Maintain boundaries with colleagues and family
Family gatherings are a joyful occasion for some, and a nerve-wracking one for others. The same goes for company parties. These are often times when loved ones and colleagues tend to push your personal boundaries. They might ask you personal questions you aren’t comfortable answering. Or they may expect you to take on more tasks (or attend more events) than you feel like you have the time and energy for.
Practice setting, and maintaining, personal boundaries with both colleagues and family members. Use assertive communication.
For example, you could decline your boss’ request to work overtime by saying something like: “I usually would be happy to support the team in this way. But I had set aside my evening to bake cookies with my daughter; it’s a tradition that’s really important to her. If there’s another way I can support the team, please let me know.”
3. Keep a routine
A big part of why the holidays are so stressful for so many of us is because our usual routines get disrupted. This has a big impact on important health behaviors like your sleep, eating, and exercise schedules.
It’s normal for these routines to be disrupted during the holidays. But as much as possible, try to keep your regular schedule. Getting 7 to 9 hours of restful sleep every night is especially important. Being sleep-deprived can you feel more stressed, anxious, and depressed than you already are. Physical exercise can also be a very effective tool to combat holiday stress.
The more you can stick to these regular self-care routines, the better.
4. Let go of perfection
Sometimes, holiday stress accumulates because of the pressure for everything to be perfect. There is so much pressure during the holidays to be “jolly” every minute of every day. A lot of us feel like we need to prepare a perfect holiday feast for our perfect families, just like a scene from a holiday greeting card.
This is far from reality – and this can be disappointing and stressful. This year, let go of the expectation of perfection. Understand that things will go wrong, and that’s okay. Focus on the things about the holiday season that are important to you, whether that’s family, spirituality, or giving back to the community. Allow yourself to let the rest go.
5. Plan ahead
One of the best ways to tackle holiday stress is to have a solid plan going into it. When you know what to expect, you may feel better prepared for the emotional and financial impact of the holidays.
Examples of helpful planning include:
- Ask for days off in advance
- Set a budget, and stick to it
- Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, gift-wrapping, etc.
- Prioritize work projects and schedule hours for “deep work”
6. Be careful of alcohol
For many families, alcohol is a big part of holiday gatherings. Many people may also drink more during the holidays to cope with the stress that this season brings.
This is completely understandable. At the same time, alcohol is closely linked to several mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Having a glass of wine after work probably won’t hurt, but excessive drinking may make you feel even more stressed. Be conscious of how much alcohol you’re consuming.
If you think you may have an addiction to alcohol, then professional treatment can help. You can locate substance abuse treatment near you by calling the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helpline at 1-800-622-HELP.
7. Seek support
A counselor or a therapist can be a dependable source of support for you during the holidays. If you aren’t already working with a therapist, reach out to your company’s EAP (Employee Assistance Program). Your human resources department can connect you.
MINES & Associates’ EAP offers free and confidential counseling that’s available to you 24/7. Whatever you’re going through, we are here to help. In addition, we also offer financial, legal, and parenting support as well as professional wellness coaching. We can help you get through the holidays with your mental health intact!
A very Happy Holidays to you and your family from the MINES team.