With the holidays approaching, it seems that everybody feels more stressed out. All emotions are on high during winter, and it becomes so easy to fall to pressure as things get tough. Unfortunately, stress is not necessarily a good thing, physically or emotionally. Is holiday stress getting you down? Maybe one of these factors is to blame.
Who Gets Stressed?
There is no doubt that everybody gets stressed out in the wintertime, especially as holidays get closer and closer. Not only do thousands upon thousands of people feel the stress of the holidays as they approach, nearly half of them want to skip Christmas altogether.
More women than men experience an increase in stress leading up to the holidays. This is likely because women tend to take on the majority of holiday-related burdens, including shopping and planning the holiday meals. As the deadline looms on, the holidays get more and more stressful for those who are heading up the family.
Lower middle income families, typically those who make between $30,000 and $50,000, experience the most financial pressure and report high stress as a result of the holidays. High expectations and plenty of exposure to holiday media increase the risks associated with holiday anxiety.
The Effects of Holiday Stress
The physical symptoms of stress are all too real:
- Inability to sleep
- An upset stomach
The pain can be tremendously debilitating, and you might not even realize that it is stress that is responsible for all the physical symptoms.
You may find yourself becoming unsatisfied with your job. You might even notice that your behavior in the workplace is changing, leading to a decline in work performance. If you are struggling at work, it might be time to take a step back and ask if holiday stress could have something to do with it.
Unfortunately, this stress can also lead to cardiovascular disease and heart attack. This is why it is so important to identify the cause of your stress and pinpoint a plan of action to treat it.
What Causes Holiday Stress?
Holiday stress cannot necessarily be boiled down to one root cause. In truth, there are generally many reasons why stress pops up during the holidays. It is usually a culmination of all these factors that leads to serious issues with increased stress.
1. There isn’t enough time to do everything
Lack of time is one of the biggest reasons people feel the effects, but lack of funds is another very real concern. People work themselves to the bone trying to earn enough money to give their family amazing presents on Christmas, but it can have a significantly negative impact on their lives.
2. Pressure to create the “perfect” Christmas pops up
Commercialism and hype bring a great deal of attention to the holiday, especially as the pressure to give and receive presents increases. This is especially the case with instances in which credit card debt increases and travel expenses start to pile up as people strive to give their children the perfect holiday experience. Financial concerns are amplified when commercialism takes over the season.
3. Family visits are not always pleasant
Bringing the family together comes with its own set of consequences. Family drama and awkward situations can bring their own sense of pressure. Of course, the opposite can be just as stressful. One major cause of depression during the holidays is loneliness. No matter the case, it is important that you consider the amount of family involvement you want in your holiday. If your family causes more stress than anything else, it may actually be beneficial to stay away during this anxious time.
4. Food woes lead to weight loss worries
For those trying to lose weight by staying on a diet, the holidays can seem extremely stressful. Thanksgiving can be a nightmare when you are trying to live the no-carb lifestyle. It can also be distressing to be bombarded with treats, like cookies and pies as Christmas approaches. The resulting weight gain can be difficult to deal with. Here are some tips from Real Simple to eat healthy during the holidays.
5. Work can become significantly more demanding as the weather wears down
Of course, the stress of work can cause havoc during the holidays. Extra hours that are inflexible can lead to many problems. Employees get stressed when they can’t get enough time off work, as well as those times when work and celebration just don’t mix. And finally, there are plenty of employees who worry that they aren’t going to make enough money to afford the holidays.
How to Manage Stress During the Holidays
No two people are exactly alike in the way they handle stressful moments. Some handle it impeccably well, while others struggle simply to get up in the morning as a result of depression. The following tips are options to consider when holiday stress is becoming too much to handle.
1. If you manage workers, encourage flexibility
One of the keys to encouraging stress management during the holidays is to maintain flexible hours for all employees. Simply because you have an employee present does not mean that they’re emotionally or mentally ready to work. It’s all too common for employees to become overworked to the point of exhaustion during the shopping season. For this reason, it simply isn’t a good idea to have employees working shifts when they aren’t enthusiastic about it.
2. Take time off work when the pressure is getting to you
Employees should take time off work when they can. While this may not make it easy to shower loved ones with extravagant gifts, it does allow for creativity with the gifts you do give this season. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to show somebody that you love them. Using some creativity also demonstrates that you put time and effort into the presents you gave. Even if you can’t work all that overtime to buy expensive presents, you can still provide for your family.
3. Only spend what you can afford
Instead of making the season about gifts, make the holidays about having fun and spending time with those you care about. You can show that you care by making treats, bringing somebody a hot meal or by making a special trip to go see somebody you love. Time is fleeting; spend it with those that you cherish. In the years to come, nobody is going to remember the amount of money you spent (unless it puts you into debt). They are going to remember smiles and fun.
4. Pay attention to the way you cope with your stress
Don’t resort to unhealthy stress management tactics. Binge watching shows on Netflix, overeating, drinking too much and sleeping are not healthy ways to take care of your feelings. Hitting the pavement or the gym is a much better way to cope, especially if you are not going to participate in much physical activity over the course of the holidays.
5. Find soothing music that you enjoy listening to
Listening to positive or inspiring music is often helpful, especially when there are few options for comfort. You can always slink outside or to the bathroom and listen to your favorite song when things feel stressful. Even just two or three minutes of self-imposed serenity can add some light to your day.
6. Think positively whenever possible
Ultimately, focusing on the positive parts of the holiday season is best for busting stress. Instead of focusing on all the negative stressors that influence your holiday, it’s important that you take time to reflect on the memories you’re able to make and the time you’re able to spend away from the office. When the holidays are over, you’ll be holding on to many more positive memories than negative ones.
For more tips on how to manage holiday stress, check out our round-up post where 13 stress experts give their top tips for managing holiday stress!
When a significant number of people would rather skip the holidays than participate, there is definitely something wrong with the way we as a society cope with stressors. It’s better to learn how to cope with stress before it begins to have negative, and often permanent, side effects on your life.