The holiday season can be a magical time of the year. However, for some, it can be a great source of stress. It is not uncommon for many families to have a checklist of traditions to be followed every year. My family is no exception to this. Even though these traditions may have started spontaneously, they have somehow shifted to an expectation that needs to occur, or the holidays will not be the same. Or will they? Just as we have created this expectation, we can also shift our perception of what is important.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 38% of people report increased stress and anxiety levels during the holiday season, whereas only 8% reported an increased positive mood. I have to say I was a bit surprised when I saw these results, especially since only 8% felt happier during the “most magical time of the year.” Why is this, you may ask? One reason may be the financial burden that many encounter, either due to the effects of COVID or their increased spending throughout the holidays. Let’s face it, creating the perfect Hallmark holiday can carry with it a hefty price tag. According to the APA’s 2020 Stress in America Survey, approximately 64% of people surveyed report feeling financial stress. Furthermore, a survey conducted by T. Rowe Price, a global investment firm, found that some parents will go into debt trying to get everything on their children’s wish list.
I am certainly not suggesting that you abandon all of your beloved traditions. Perhaps some slight adjustments are just what the doctor ordered. Here are a few tips that may help ward off stress and improve overall mood during this holiday season.
- Be Flexible / Set Realistic Expectations – plans can change in the blink of an eye, especially with increasing cases of COVID. Flexibility is key. Just because your plans may change or may be different from past holidays does not mean that the joy you experienced should change with it. Focus on what is important and remember new memories are in the making.
- Prioritize Your List – be careful not to let every day leading up to the holidays be consumed by an agenda. Maybe it is best to throw away the checklist and do whatever comes naturally. If you notice that an ordinarily beloved tradition is feeling more like a chore this year, maybe it is time to change it up. Ask yourself, what is the worst that will happen if I leave this off my list this year?
- Create a Debt Friendly Budget – perspective is everything when thinking about how short the holiday season is. However, digging yourself out of debt can last a lot longer, not to mention the stress and anxiety that goes along with it. Keep this in mind when rushing out for those “must have” gifts this season.
- Smell the Roses – practice a little mindfulness during the holidays. Don’t forget to take in the sights and sounds by fully being present in the moment. Snuggle up with family or a friend to watch a movie, enjoy a cup of hot chocolate, check out the lights and holiday displays around your town, or enjoy some aromatherapy while soaking in the tub. Self-care is so important, so do what you love!
Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the holiday season allow you to lose sight of what is truly important to you. Most of all, do not neglect your mental health. Although these tips may help gain perspective and reduce stress, be mindful of when it is necessary to seek support from others.
Dr. Corrinne Kalafut is a licensed psychologist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy with children, adolescents, and adults. Dr. Kalafut works collaboratively with her patients, empowering them to develop the skills needed for improved emotional functioning and achievement of their personal goals. Particular areas of interest include: anxiety disorders, executive functioning deficits, depression, stress management, parenting and familial issues, educational consulting, and psycho-educational assessment.