How to deal with holiday stress

At this time of year prices are typically sky-rocket, stocks are limited and we overspend and land up in debt.

At this time of year prices are typically sky-rocket, stocks are limited and we overspend and land up in debt.

Published Jan 6, 2016


At this time of year prices are typically sky-rocket, stocks are limited and we overspend and land up in debt.

Crowds, queues and traffic become the norm. Resorts and restaurants are congested. Diets fly out the window and naturally, emotions spiral out of control.

Frustrations, guilt, regret, remorse and stress levels soar.

So often, December is bitter sweet. Come year end, most of us are only too happy to have some reprieve from the daily grind because we’re exhausted, frayed at the edges and in desperate need of a holiday.

For some, this is a time of great disappointment, loneliness, grief and sadness as loved ones may have passed away during the year, and this is their first holiday alone. Perhaps they’ve recently divorced, separated, or the children have grown up, left home or gone away with friends on holiday.

Maybe that long-awaited bonus didn’t materialise. If this has happened to you, it is quite natural to feel you’re on an emotional rollercoaster, anxious, worried, stressed, depressed or filled with dread.

Perhaps it’s been a tough year; you feel pressured and are struggling financially. Although attempts to keep up with the Jones's may look or feel fabulous, realistically this simply compounds stressful woes. Maybe you are eager to please your family, and keep the peace? Perhaps you feel let down or guilty because of your financial situation?

Either way, these emotions are disconcerting and stressful.

What about family obligations?Possibly after an arduous, long year all you want to do is kick off your shoes, chill out, be quiet and relax but you feel bombarded with demanding obligations – family reunions, the dreaded in-laws, noisy kids, or those ever-pressing, incomplete DIY chores.

Not everyone enjoys spending so much time with family. The inevitable and often unpleasant questions arise, “Who will we spend time with this year? Your family or mine?”

Then there are the same old awkward conversations, stale jokes or snide remarks that can be so dreadfully uncomfortable causing additional anxiety and stress.

Not everyone celebrates Christmas with the same religious vigour, or gets excited about noisy celebrations and festive cheer.

Since this is traditionally the season of giving, instead of buying unnecessary gifts, perhaps we should develop an awareness of others’ needs – showing compassion, kindness, respect and tolerance for what others may be faced with?

By observing, listening and being mindful, we develop and grow ourselves.

Surely this is something we should strive towards as sentient beings, instead of accumulating more unnecessary stuff and overindulging or suffocating our emotional pains in order to cope with stress?

When we consider others, our own problems dissolve, as does our stress.



Regardless of your holiday stress-related issues, here are 10 tips to help you cope, and combat stress during the ‘silly’ season:

* Breathe – Whenever we are stressed, we shallow breathe which creates a sense of panic in the body. Although this is a natural and normal stress response, we do need to consciously remind ourselves to breath deeply.

Take a few nice deep, slow breaths whenever you are stressed. More oxygen helps the body and mind to calm, which enables one to think clearly.

* Time out – Do not overcommit. Make an effort to give yourself time out. Spend at least an hour alone, without distractions doing things you enjoy. Taking time out will help you refresh so you can cope with everything you need to achieve.

* Do less, enjoy more – Interrupting our daily routine by doing small, uplifting things helps us to relax and calm, and so make us feel good. Some examples: taking an afternoon nap, going for a walk, meditating, writing a gratitude journal, listening to soothing music, getting a massage, visiting a spa, reading a book, watching a “feel good” movie or just star gazing.

* Plan ahead – Create a list of all the things you want to achieve during the holidays, including the people you want to visit, gifts to purchase or make, baking, cooking and so on. Plan your menus, make your shopping list, and then set aside time to do these things. This prevents frustration, forgotten gifts and ingredients, and that ghastly last-minute stressful rush to get things done.

* Budgets – Once you’ve made your lists, decide how much money you have to spend and create a budget for all the gifts and entertainment, including food and beverages. Then stick to your budget. Staying out of debt helps prevent unnecessary financial stress, worry and anxiety.

* Healthy habits – Most people tend to overindulge in unhealthy food and alcohol during the festive season, which only adds to stressful woes. To counter this, daily exercise will help maintain your health and well-being – walking, jogging, swimming, yoga or pilates are all beneficial. If you currently have a routine of daily exercise and healthy eating, stick to this to help you cope with your holiday stress.

* Learn to say “No” – Listen to your gut feel, and if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Saying “no” is a powerful way of staying in control and setting firm boundaries. It isn’t necessary to participate in every activity or invitation. Besides, people usually respect you more when you say “no”. Being a people pleaser, and saying “yes” can often leave you feeling overwhelmed and resentful. This adds unnecessary stress to your holidays.

* Accepting differences – People have different views of life, and not everyone celebrates the festive season with the same religious intentions. Don’t judge them, instead embrace their different opinions. Adopt an open mind, and listen for a change – you may actually learn something new. Be mindful and respectful of other people’s choices.

* Customs and routines – Feeling stuck, depressed or stressful? Following the same old boring routines or customs isn’t refreshing, invigorating or inspiring. It is said, “a change is as good as a holiday,” so for once, try something different or unusual. You may find you enjoy new ways of celebrating and getting things done. Lighten up and have some fun.

* Hugs and laughter – Hugging releases “happy” chemicals called oxytocin, also known as the “bliss hormone”. It is said that eight to 12 hugs a day make you feel healthy and great about yourself. Laughter is also one of the best medicines, and immediately uplifts one. If you have nothing to laugh about, watch comedy DVDs or TV shows. Youtube is full of hilarious video clips.

Since this is the traditional season of giving, start by pampering yourself with oodles of self care. Instead of indulging in expensive, unnecessary gifts find ways to make yourself and others feel good with simple acts of kindness – this will immediately reduce your stress. There isn’t enough compassion, kindness, respect and tolerance in this world. All we need is to stop, look, listen and show others a little consideration, which shouldn’t cost money, only a little effort and time.

Edwards is an Emotional Change Catalyst, trained Hospice caregiver, and author of two self help books, Anger Gone! How To Defeat Anger Easily and now, Stress Gone! For more info or to purchase these books visit

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