Everyone is cheerier than usual around the holidays and everything from your local coffee shop to your doctor’s office is decked out with festive decorations. While this certainly makes for an exciting time of year, especially with the amount of parties and potlucks you’ll be invited to, the holiday season can be a stressful time. There are boundless expectations from family members and friends, parties to plan, extra cooking and cleaning to be done, plus that gift list that seems to grow bigger every year — not to mention the pressure placed on yourself to get everything done in time.
“Studies show that most people get stressed around the holidays over not having money, not having time, and not knowing what to do about gifting,” says Dinorah Nieves (aka Dr. D), PhD, a behavioral scientist, personal development coach, and consultant for OWN’s Iyanla Fix My Life. “The pressure of it all can make a nightmare of what could otherwise be a joyous occasion.” So, how can you keep from succumbing to all the holiday stress? For starters, give these expert-approved strategies a try.
Create a budget that you can stick to
Spending more than you can afford, even during this “giving” time of year, will leave you financially stressed post-holidays. That’s why Aimee Bernstein, a psychotherapist, mindfulness-in-action teacher, and author of Stress Less Achieve More, recommends creating a realistic budget in advance of the holidays and sticking to it as much as you can. “Don’t allow your pride or competitive spirit to entice you into spending more money than you can afford,” she says. “Remember that the love behind the giving is what matters most, not the price tag,” she says.
Don’t let anyone steal your happy
Unsolicited comments and uncomfortable questions reign supreme over the holidays, when you tend to be around family, friends, and strangers at social gatherings. Try your best to brush them off. “It’s easy to allow their comments to deflate your spirit, but don’t take them in so deeply,” says Bernstein. “Shake it off and refocus on your inner joy and the positive things in your world.” Or, turn to social media, and give yourself a good laugh with #HolidayClapbacks.
Express your feelings
If you’re going through a difficult time, whether it be from financial stress, pressure at work or more of a traumatic event, such as a death in the family, try not to hold in your feelings in light of the holidays. There is no need to grin in and bear it. Instead, Bernstein recommends allowing yourself to share your feelings with someone who you trust. “It’s okay to cry as it reduces the internal pressure; however, be careful about creating narratives that take you down a slippery slope of worry and anxiety,” she says. “Instead, let your feelings out, take some deep breaths, and focus on the blessings that are in your life.”
Leave politics off the table
Keep conversations at cocktail hours and dinners light. Remember that any political conversation is bound to end up as a debate or even worse, an argument. “If the talking heads on television news shows can’t listen to each other without interrupting, what makes you think your friends and family can do any better?” asks Bernstein. “The holidays are a time of peace, love, and alignment with something greater than ourselves — don’t be afraid to remind people of this and to request that as a group you converse about other matters.”
Don’t forget to gift yourself
While the holiday season is traditionally a time to gift other people, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t spoil yourself, be it that new dress you’ve been eyeing, something for your home, or that spa day you’ve been craving. “You are as deserving of your time and money as anyone else on that list,” says Dr. D. “It doesn’t have to be a big splurge — a cute pair of earrings or nice watch will work.”
Let yourself off the hook
Whatever you do this holiday season, don’t run yourself into the ground with demands and expectations. “Remember, this is only one of many moments that make up your relationships — the holidays are not the be all and end all of who you are or what you have to offer,” says Dr. D. “Renegotiate the expectations by talking to your friends and family about what you can and can’t do and what you will and won’t do.” The holiday season is not the time to be a people pleaser at your own expense!