Managing your holiday stress

The holidays – whether you love them or couldn’t give two ‘bah-humbugs’ about them, the holiday season can bring with it a lot of unnecessary and unwanted stress. So, in order to focus on the positives as the year draws to a close, we’ve identified a few of the likely frustrations on your mind and provided a few alternative options and suggestions on how you can begin managing your holiday stress.


Much of our society’s culture is framed around gift-giving. TV commercials push department storewide sales, radio ads urge us to buy one, get one free, and every corner of your internet browser is covered with banner ads telling you to buy, buy, buy.

The spirit of gift giving used to feel wholesome and personal – we’d pass by a store and see something that caught our eye that immediately reminded us of our closest friends or family members. Now, it’s a consumerism black hole – pushing the latest gadget and gizmo that you don’t really need into your shopping cart. It didn’t use to be all about money.

To cut back on your gift-giving stress, ignore the gimmicks that try to pull you in – things like ‘lightning deals’ and doorbusters are designed to put you in an impulsive spending mood.

Avoid browsing, both in-store and online for this same reason. When we browse, our brains go into auto-pilot, scanning for price tags and flashy deals. And while we’re never one to pass up a good deal, does your Aunt Kathy really need a meat tenderizer? Probably not. To reduce the stress of being bombarded with holiday-themed everything, sit down and create a list of things you think would positively impact someone’s life. Really think about the people on your gift list and visualize what would be meaningful to them. Keeping a list will help cut back on impulse buys and help you stick to a budget.

If braving the crowds of the local mall isn’t for you, also consider buying experiences, not things. In today’s world, we value what we can tangibly hold in our hands – we’re obsessed with the ownership of items. What we forget, is that the beauty of experience is just as magical. Have a sibling that loves music? Try surprising them with concert tickets instead of an iTunes gift card. Does your niece and nephew love magical, animated movies? Surprise them with tickets to a play, musical or show on ice! Give a gift that fosters the feeling of togetherness and creates memories, rather than just a toy that could end up broken or discarded at the end of the year.

Volunteer your time

Gifts aren’t the focal point of the holidays. It’s about bringing people together, whether those people be family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, or strangers. During this time of year, it gets a bit colder, and often times, a little bit harder to make ends meet. The season is full of luxury, and not always in the ways we think about. We think of gifts and delicious foods, but we forget about the other luxuries; like having a warm meal, or heat in your home, or simply having companionship. No matter our denomination or faith, we can all do a little more to bring joy and goodwill into the lives of others who need it.

There are so many ways to pay it forward, either by donating your money, or by donating your time. We’ve attached a few ideas of how to get involved in your local communities, and if you’re unsure of how to get started, VolunteerMatch  is a website that helps highlight volunteer opportunities near you. Keep in mind, that some food banks, soup kitchens and other food-based charities might already have their volunteer shifts filled. So, think outside the box with how you can give back this year. Not only do you make a positive impact on someone’s life, it’s a rewarding experience that you can carry with you.

Here are a few ways you can make your heart feel a little lighter this holiday season:

  • Volunteer at a food kitchen or shelter
  • Participate in a clothing/food/toy drive.
  • Spend time with local seniors who might not have family nearby or spend time with animals at shelters near you

Keep in contact with family and loved ones

What keeps us grounded through our busy lives and schedules are the people that support us through every triumph and obstacle. We receive cards, get phone calls, and send emails to update each other on our day-to-day milestones, but it takes a gathering to really connect. It’s not always possible to meet up frequently with those we care about, and when we do get the chance, sometimes personal prejudices or familial differences can get in the way of that quality time. Just remember that everyone is likely feeling stress of their own, and each person has different ways of managing it. Exercise patience and know that you can’t change the people you love. Practice acceptance and tolerance, and bask in the glow of company that cares about you. If you are struggling to come up with some activities that can bring the family together, this PBS resource  has a few you can try.

If you can’t travel for the holidays, consider holding a Skype call – even if you can’t physically be somewhere, seeing people’s faces instead of hearing their voice over the phone adds that extra point of connection. If you’re looking for more than just a phone call with far-away loved ones, here is great article from Mental Floss on different ways you can use technology  to bridge the gap of thousands of miles.

As always, if you don’t have anyone to celebrate the holiday with, reach out to those you might not normally. Many people can’t be where they’d like to be, and are likely looking for a kindred spirit to spend time with. It can be intimidating to talk to people you don’t know well, but the beauty of the season is being able to spread kindness and goodwill. Take a chance and brighten someone’s day.

A little bit of solitude

As nice as family can be, sometimes you just need a moment to yourself to reflect on the day and what the holiday means to you. Whether you live in an area where there’s snow or not, one of the most calming things you can do to relieve your stress is just to take a walk. There’s something so reassuringly peaceful about zipping up your coat, and embracing the universal hush that seems to coat the neighborhood at the end of the year. When snow falls, the quiet seems vast, like a satisfying sigh. When it’s night, with the street lamps casting a cozy glow, it’s like a familiar retreat that shushes the buzz in your mind and allows you to truly just breath and bask in the feeling of good cheer. Take it from us, it’s worth a try.

We hope that these suggestions will help with managing your holiday stress. If you have some tips that have worked for you, please share them! We’d love to hear them on our Facebook  and Twitter  pages!

Author: Taylor Werdel

December 11, 2017