As I was talking with my friend, Elizabeth, we realized that the holidays are a time of expectations, stress, pressure, and straight up BS. Elizabeth has a very strong opinion on how unnecessarily stressful the holidays are, and it got me thinking about what it’s like for people who don’t do so well under pressure. Getting through the holidays depends on how prepared you are to deal with it all. Don’t wait until right before the holidays to prepare yourself. Planning early is better than poorly coping with the aftermath of the holiday season. Be prepared. Don’t panic. Stay focused. And follow these nine tips to keep your calm amidst all the holiday BS.
1. Block Out Aggressive Holiday Media and Advertisements
That includes TV, radio, advertising, social media and internet ads. The holidays are the time of year when marketers do most of their convincing and manipulation to get you to spend money. More often than not, you’ll later regret buying that pumpkin spiced latte you never liked in the first place. Stores especially can pressure you to buy particular products and it’s easy to feel guilty for not doing so. In all honesty, you shouldn’t have to stress about getting the perfect gift while being antagonized for not buying a particular product. There’s no pressure in holiday shopping. The gift you find will be perfect because it came from you.
2. Stay Clear of the Mall
Minimize shopping and avoid going if you can. If being in crowds makes you anxious, then stay clear of shopping centers. The parking lot will be packed and the lines for the cashier will go out the door. Be reminded that normal people get possessed by this holiday shopping demon that makes them rude and inconsiderate. The closer the holidays get, the more impatient people are to get that last-minute gift—there will be shoving, cutting, and arguing.
Don’t go to the mall if you don’t have to, but if you must go, go quickly. Stay focused on your purpose for shopping there and shield yourself from all the things you don’t need. If shopping at the mall stresses you out, or is completely out of the question, consider online shopping at home. There’s no way to spend the holidays like sitting on the couch in your favorite pair of pajamas with someone you care about. Just remember to do all your online shopping ASAP so that everything ships in time.
3. Set a Holiday Budget and Stick to it
Consumers spend 5.5 percent more on retail 50 days before Christmas, and up to 15.4 percent more on online shopping, reports Barbara Farfan, a management and operations consultant. With almost 30 percent of women and 17 percent of men reporting extreme anxiety over personal finances, it’s safe to say that holiday spending stresses people out.
The truth is, you don’t have to buy it all. No matter what is on sale and how shiny it is, stay within your budget. Have a plan for how much money you are going to spend this season and stick to it. Most importantly, understand that love isn’t measured in dollars. So don’t feel compelled to buy expensive gifts. It truly is the thought that counts.
4. This is Sugar Time!
Sugar affects the brain in such a way that binging on it can cause anxiety. Since this is the time of the year when sugar products are constantly being pushed in your face, it’s hard to resist when a coworker brings a big plate of homemade cookies to the office. Know what you’re going to say when your coworker insists on “just one.” Remember, it’s perfectly okay to say, “No, thank you.” Consider low-sugar alternatives, like a bag of almonds, to take the place of all the holiday sweets that can make you crash and worsen anxiety.
5. You Don’t Have to do it All
Organizing, preparing, cooking, and decorating can be overwhelming. Trying to do it all by yourself will lead to a meltdown. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. A helping hand can take away from your holiday party planning stress. A holiday party is an opportunity for you to relax, get together with your loved ones, and be thankful for life.
6. Pick and Choose Wisely
Pick and choose your holiday activities wisely. While this is a special time for everyone to come together, this sense of unity is often distracted by more commercial festivities. For instance, you might have to choose between standing in line for three hours so that your son can take a picture with Santa Claus, or driving three hours into the countryside so that your family can share more Christmas dinner with Grandpa. Choose what is important to your well-being. In the spirit of the holidays, quality time spent with family and friends will be much better for you than dealing with the madness at the mall.
7. Alcohol is a Depressant
Drinking heavily has been known to lower serotonin levels and bring down your overall mood. Although you may not drink much regularly, the holidays often opens up more opportunities for you to tap into the festive spirits (pun intended). Apple toddies, eggnog, and mulled wine are holiday staples. But if you have problems with holding your liquor, it’s better not to drink at all. Decide what you will do before you go to a party so you don’t overindulge in alcohol. Prepare an answer if someone tries to push you into drinking too much.
8. Take Care of Your Body Amidst All the Holiday Feasts
Daily exercise gives you the energy you need to get through the holidays. Between all the holiday parties and traveling, try to squeeze in a workout every day. It can be as simple as taking a walk after dinner. Along with exercise, take supplements and vitamins to make sure you’re getting everything your body needs. Also try and enjoy the sunlight as much as possible. Sunlight exposure is essential in melatonin production; more melatonin helps you relax and sleep better.
9. Release Your Holiday Expectations
Minimize expectations of yourself and others. In fact, release expectations all together and you will not be disappointed. When it comes down to it, the holidays are a time to relax.
Realize that you can’t please everyone and you are not responsible for everyone’s happiness. You don’t have to host the perfect holiday party for your family, friends, work or anyone. You are only responsible for your own happiness.
The Holidays are a Time for Family, Love, and Humility
Be kind to yourself during the holidays. Swept up in trying to find the right gift, wearing the perfect outfit, and cooking a masterpiece of a dinner, we often forget to do what’s most important: love and cherish our family, friends, and most importantly, ourselves.
Nancy De Andrade, Ph.D., OM, is a Clinical Psychologist and soul-level counselor with a Ph.D. from the California Institute for Human Science. She specializes in consciousness, advanced energy psychology, and Eastern and Shamanic teachings. Dr. Andrade's approach integrates holistic methods to help individuals transform limiting beliefs. With counseling experience in various populations, she incorporates art, creativity, and spirituality. Nancy also instructs at the Motivational Institute of Hypnotherapy and San Diego State University and contributes to the Rebecca's House Eating Disorder Treatment Program.