Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
The holidays are meant to be a jolly ol’ time filled with fun, laughter, and joy — but it doesn’t always work out that way. There’s a lot of pressure that can come with this time of year, and sometimes that pressure can become too much to handle.
And when it gets to be too much, the holidays can turn us into different people and drive us to do or say things we normally wouldn’t do or say. Well, no more of that! With these tips you’ll be able to stave off, or at least reduce, holiday stress.
1. Plan Your Expenses
For many folks, the financial aspect of the holidays is a major stressor: the costs of throwing parties, the expectations of gift giving, the desire to go on vacation, etc. The most exciting time of year also happens to be the most expensive.
It can get to the point where you avoid logging onto your bank account because you’re afraid of what you’ll see. And the worst part is that the longer you avoid it, the more the stress grows.
So, tackle it head on before it snowballs out of control. You still have time before the holidays hit, which means you can use this time plan ahead. Taking control of your finances is one of the most effective ways to eliminate uncertainty — and, let’s be honest, it’s the uncertainty that tends to be most stressful.
The key is budgeting, a term that isn’t as scary as you think. All you have to do is estimate how much money you can set aside for the holidays, then allocate that money to all the things you want to do. It will be a grand relief knowing that all of it is accounted for and that you won’t be going into debt for it.
2. Use Google Reminders
Busyness is another major stressor during the holidays. You have so much stuff to do — plan parties, shop for gifts, fit events into your calendar, decide trip itineraries, etc. — that you start feeling like you can’t keep everything straight.
A to-do list is great for this! We’ve compared the best to-do list apps available so feel free to start using one of them. If you’re already an avid user of OneNote though, you should check out these useful tips for OneNote to-do lists.
But sometimes a to-do list app is too much. The process of adding new items to a list isn’t always quick. What if you’re busy and you remember that you need to do something later but you don’t have the time to tap a million buttons to input a new item on your list? That’s when you need Google Reminders.
All you have to do is say “OK Google, remind me to [task] at [time]” and boom, the reminder is created. When the time comes around, your phone will notify you — and you’ll be able to mark it as done or push it back an hour. It’s so nifty, and it really comes in handy during busy seasons of life.
Check out our in-depth exploration of what Google Reminders can do. There’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. You can also turn notifications into reminders if you’re so keen.
3. Keep a Gratitude Journal
Imagine if someone told you that you could be a much happier person in just five minutes of effort per day. Would you believe them? Even if you don’t, wouldn’t you at least give it a shot? Five minutes of effort is nothing compared to the possibility of greater happiness, right?
You can achieve that with a gratitude journal. Based upon the principles of positive psychology, regular doses of gratitude can be an effective way to cope with stress and anxiety, and a gratitude journal is a great way to put that into practice.
Every day, jot down a few things for which you’re grateful. They can be minor or major, it doesn’t matter. Gratefulness is powerful either way. Start every day by reading some lines from the journal and eventually you will start to see changes in the way you think.
OneNote can be a great tool for keeping gratitude notes.
For the holidays, you can even start a gratitude bowl. Members of your family should take a slip of paper, write something for which they’re grateful, and add it to the bowl. Every night, read through them. Do this for the duration of the holidays and you might just find that everything is a bit more bearable.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of letting go and focusing entirely on the present, not being bogged down by the past and not being hindered by the future. It can be practiced meditatively but it doesn’t have to be. It is, at its core, a state of mind.
One thing that goes hand-in-hand with mindfulness is proper breathing techniques. Fast, shallow breathing can contribute to anxiety and stress while slow, deep breathing can help you relax — not just mentally but physiologically.
Stress-breaking physical activities can help too, such as relaxation yoga. You can combine all three together (mindfulness, breathing, yoga) at the start of your day, or even throughout the day, to wash away unnecessary stress during the holidays.
Other elements of mindfulness include: staying in the moment during conversations, recognizing that perfection isn’t necessary for a successful holiday, and being able to say No when you start to feel overwhelmed.
5. Be Aware of Seasonal Depression
There’s a big difference between clinical depression and seasonal depression. Seasonal depression most often occurs during the winter months due to changes in weather and total amount of sunlight (though it can occur during other seasons for other reasons too).
If you tend to experience big shifts in mood and mentality during the holidays, you may want to consider seasonal depression as a possible cause. Common symptoms may resemble burnout and include:
- Sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings.
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism.
- Irritability or restlessness.
- Fatigue, oversleeping, or difficulty sleeping.
- Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy.
Do not self-diagnose. Consult a medical professional! The good news is that seasonal depression can be treated, particularly with light therapy lamps. A simple lifestyle change like this could have a huge impact.
But don’t neglect the impact of technology on mental health either. We don’t know if excessive tech usage causes depression, but it can certainly exacerbate such issues. Addictions to internet, smartphones, social media, video games, and even pornography can make the holidays harder than they need to be.
Face the Holidays with a Smile
The holiday season doesn’t have to be a stressful time. It may feel that way, especially if the past ten years have all been disasters in some way or another, but maybe this year is the year you can turn that around.
How do you deal with holiday stress? Is the stress inevitable or is there actually a way to escape it? Got any other tips to share with us? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
Image Credits: Alliance/Shutterstock