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Holiday Stress: What Causes It and How You Can Manage It

It’s enough to make you wonder if you’re taking crazy pills. Your parents are both so drunk that they can’t cook dinner. Your crazy uncle won’t stop talking about how things were different “back in his day.” Meanwhile, your little cousins are tearing all of your carefully-wrapped presents open early. And to make matters worse, the dog just got into the roast beef.

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by holiday stress, you’re not alone. There are tons of unique stressors that all rear their ugly heads during the holiday season, and it can be challenging to manage all that stress. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. In this post, we’ll explore some of the causes of holiday stress, as well as some ways that you can take control of your holidays again.

What Are Some Causes of Holiday Stress?

Holiday stress doesn’t just come from a single source. After all, no two people have the holiday situation. Below, we’ll cover some of the most common holiday stress triggers.

  1. Holiday Overindulgence

Eating, drinking, and celebrating are some of the best parts of the holidays. But sometimes, it can be easy to overdo it. Overindulging can lead to problems in the future, like wreaking havoc on your positive routine or leading to embarrassing memories. We always stress (pun intended) to aim for balance. Sure, have an extra piece of pie, but maybe drink one less glass of wine.

  1. Spending Too Much

The holidays are a festive and giving time of year. And sometimes, it’s too easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit. Overspending on gifts is a pretty common occurrence, and sometimes “holiday debt” can follow you into the spring and summer months.

Money is one of the primary sources of stress in nearly half of Americans’ lives, according to the American Psychological Association. What’s more, overspending on holiday gifts can contribute to this unique stressor. As a result, overspending on gifts can lead to more than just holiday stress. It can significantly increase your overall feelings of stress year-round.

If your finances aren’t up to paying for big, expensive gifts, consider a less-expensive option. Or, create something yourself. After all, chances are the people receiving your gifts wouldn’t want to put you in a stressful situation on their account!

  1. Biting Off More Than You Can Chew

This source of holiday stress can take many forms. It may be tied into gift-giving or organizing an event for friends and family. Regardless of where it comes from, it can be a severe headache during the holiday season.

Don’t commit to doing more than you’re comfortable with. If you find yourself overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to stop and ask for help. Don’t worry, you won’t ruin the perfect holiday party by delegating some tasks to other people. After all, the holiday season is supposed to be fun for you too, right?

Holiday Stress: What Can You Do About It?

While each holiday stress trigger may be unique, there are some overarching ways to take control and eliminate holiday stress this year.

  1. Make a Budget

It may not be fun, but you can’t start shopping without knowing how much money you can afford to spend. No one wants to limit themselves, especially during the holidays. But if you make a budget (and stick to it), you can help reduce the amount of overall stress you feel during this time of year.

You should include variables in your budget like:

  • Gifts: often one of the most expensive (and stressful) parts of the holiday season. Gifts should factor heavily into your budget.
  • Food: one often-overlooked factor in a holiday budget is food. Whether you’re just feeding yourself or hosting friends and family, don’t forget to factor these expenses into your holiday budget.
  • Travel expenses: while not everyone has to worry about travel expenses during the holiday season, costs can quickly rack up for those who do. And that’s especially true this year, with the prices of flights and gas skyrocketing.
  1. Set Realistic Expectations

We all want our holiday experiences to be perfect. But sometimes, that’s just not possible. And suppose we can come to terms with that. In that case, we’ll be able to actually relax and enjoy ourselves instead of worrying about what could be better.

Setting realistic expectations is important, even outside of the holiday season. There’s one Calvin and Hobbes strip that always comes to mind when this topic comes up.

Calvin asks Hobbes, “if you could have anything in the world right now, what would it be?” Hobbes replies, “a sandwich.” Calvin goes on to chastise Hobbes, saying he should ask for “a trillion billion dollars, [his] own space shuttle, and a private continent.” The comic then cuts to Hobbes eating a sandwich, saying “I got my wish” to a dejected Calvin.

Be like Hobbes. Don’t set yourself up for holiday stress with unrealistic expectations.

  1. It’s Okay to Say “No”

This might be one of the most important ways to manage holiday stress on this list. Remember, you can always say “no.” It’s really not the end of the world if you decide you don’t want to be the one who hosts friends and family or the one who cooks.

Often, we tell ourselves that we need to say “yes” to things or we’ll disappoint the people around us. But that’s not always true. Friends and family will understand if you don’t want to do something to help lower holiday stress.

This can go for work, too. Too often, employers will try to make their employees work overtime to meet increased holiday demand. If you’re in a position where you don’t have to work, feel free to say no. This is the best time of year to do it!

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