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Managing Holiday Stress

2020 has been a rough year for many Americans, as we dealt with the personal pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic problems it created. Whatever their source, problems usually generate stress, and, unfortunately, for some people, the holidays are another source of anxiety. Holidays can bring joy in many forms, but that joy is often wrapped up with tremendous extra effort, what with decorating, cooking, cleaning, traveling, gift buying, friends, relatives, entertaining—holiday activities and situations can sometimes become just too much to manage, even during more normal years.

Still, holidays are a time when everyone should have the opportunity to have a bit of fun and happiness. So, with the year-end holidays here, following are a few thoughts on how to make this holiday season slightly more relaxing:

  • Do less. Try to slow down and give yourself a break. If you can, take some time off from work and some responsibilities, postpone some chores, decide now to stop doing everything on a “to do” list.
  • Spend less. This may be a choice or a necessity, but being fiscally responsible by spending less—and then worrying less about paying end-of-the-month or end-of-the-year bills—can do a lot to help lift our mood.
  • Exercise. Exercise is a wonderful, healthy way to relax. Whether doing them indoors or outdoors, activities such as running, biking, yoga, weight training, aerobics, ice skating, skiing or hiking can all relieve stress, relax minds, and improve attitudes. Even walking a few blocks can help people feel better.
  • Travel less. Especially during the busy, rushed holidays, not having to put more time into driving or dealing with the greater complexity and uncertainties of airline travel can make life easier. Because of pandemic health concerns, 2020 might be an exceptionally good year for a “staycation.”
  • Invest time with people you like and love. Even with being observant about quarantining and social distancing, it's important to have some social interaction, either in person, on a videoconference call, over the phone, or through email or text.
  • Listen to music. Whether it’s classical, rap, rock, jazz, pop, folk, blues, international—and everything else that sounds great—listening to music is a simple activity to get away from the stressors in our lives. Put on headphones, insert earbuds, or fire up speakers and listen to whatever makes you happy!
  • Read. Reading is an easy way to, well, take it easy. Whether it’s books, magazines, academic journals, or websites, give yourself time to read. Read up on whatever interests you and takes your mind away from difficult realities and lets you focus on something that doesn't make you anxious.
  • Expect less. One source of stress is disappointment, when the outcome of a situation isn't what we wanted. Prudently managing expectations can help create a positive outlook. Given how challenging this year has been, perhaps it might be helpful to be very realistic and grounded in what we expect during the holidays, whether it involves giving or receiving gifts, or the amount of time we're able to share with family and friends.
  • Pamper yourself. Taking an extra-long bath or shower, having a warm drink such as hot chocolate or apple cider, or getting more than the usual amount of sleep can all help de-stress our minds and bodies.
  • Indulge in a favorite food—but don’t overdo it. Treating yourself to your favorite entrĂ©e, a preferred beverage, a rare snack food, or a special dessert can make us feel better, but be cautious about overdoing food during the holidays.
  • Enjoy a holiday hobby. What's your hobby or hobbies? Do they include singing, cooking, videogaming, writing poetry or fiction, birdwatching, knitting, painting, sculpting, woodworking, fixing or upgrading your home, tending to a garden, or any of the many, many other pastimes people pursue? Regardless of your hobby, engaging in something we know and enjoy focuses our attention and lightens our mood.
  • Take a class. This doesn't mean enrolling in school! The holiday could be just the time to expand your interests with something new, or get deeper into what you already know through online learning. Whether you are at the beginner or expert level on a topic, many high-quality online courses are free or are much less than $20—and you can retake some as many times as you want. 
  • Enjoy your pet. Not everyone has a pet, but for pet lovers, their companion is an almost endless source of amusement and love. It doesn't matter if it’s a cat, dog, snake, bird, fish, lizard, or less commonplace creature, sharing time with our pet calms us down and makes our life better.

Holidays are, for many of us, a favorite time, a season that is looked forward to throughout the earlier part of the year, as months, weeks, and then days are counted until the holidays arrive. Everyone deserves to have a good holiday experience, and that begins with taking care of yourself, doing whatever you can to lower your stress, and making yourself feel better.

We wish you a happy, safe, and relaxing holiday season!