By the end of the year everyone is looking forward to a break over the holiday season. Most of us look forward to spending time with our children, our family and our friends. But one part of the holiday season which no one looks forward to is added stress. Stress is a reaction to perceiving a situation as threatening or troublesome. Stress over the holiday season can arise from lots of different situations. There are the financial stressors that may come at this time; families coming together and old conflicts or difficult relationships may be exacerbated; and there may be extra work to do for Christmas parties or long travel to visit families. Stress is well-known to have a range of physiological and psychological impacts: it can make us more susceptible to annoying colds and headaches, and can also lead us to feel irritable, tired and down.
The good news is that psychological research has provided us with real ways that can help us reduce our stress over the holiday season! Here are three great tips to reduce stress over the festive season:
1. Share tasks around
One of the most common sources of stress is through taking on too much or overburdening: the result of there being too many jobs to realistically complete (Kumar, 2014). While overburdening is most frequently discussed in the context of the workplace, it is also relevant to the busy festive season.
Rather than one or two family members taking on the responsibility of preparing a large amount of the Christmas celebrations, sharing the load between a larger number of family members can reduce any sense of overburdening. There are lots of ways that you can share around responsibilities at Christmas, including dividing up the food shopping between extended family members, and splitting present buying based on extended family member locations.
Sharing the responsibilities leading up to Christmas can help to reduce the feeling of overburdening and also promotes a sense of inclusion and responsibility between family members.
2. Be aware of relationship problems
We all can’t get along with everyone, and conflicts between immediate and extended family members are a common source of stress around the festive season.
To reduce stress arising from conflict, recognition and acceptance of different people’s triggers may prove useful; avoid sensitive topics if possible and instead of focusing on the issues that are causing you stress, turn your attention to the things that you enjoy in these relationships or at this time of year.
Also try to avoid poor coping mechanisms, drinking excessively is likely to increase stress and possibly conflict as well.
3. Try practicing Mindfulness strategies
When stress builds up or seems to be unavoidable, mindfulness techniques can help keep our mental health in check. Mindfulness techniques are a broad category of actions and thinking styles which encourage the awareness and acceptance of moment-by-moment experiences. Mindfulness activities are easy to learn and incorporate into your day. Check out this link to some great, easy mindfulness exercises.
Mindfulness techniques can be practiced by yourself, as well as your friends and family. If you suspect someone close to you might be feeling a bit stressed this festive season, why not encourage some Mindfulness to ease the tension?