The holiday season is considered to be the highlight of the year where everyone gets together with families and friends to celebrate. It can be the best few weeks and it can just as easily be the worst if you get engulfed in all the holiday stress that comes with the tidings and cheers. 

It is so easy to feel like you’re drowning with all of the holiday preparations — from buying gifts, preparing holiday feasts and scheduling events with all different groups of relatives and families. We just want to give it our best as it only happens once every year. This mindset can ultimately lead to a whole lot of holiday stress.

But what exactly is holiday stress? You can think of it as the unwelcome guest in dinners, parties and shopping trips. It’s what keeps us on our toes when we try to plan our holiday activities. There is no question about it too as there are a lot of demands when the season comes in – shopping for gifts, preparing feasts, baking, cooking, cleaning and entertaining – no one is really safe from holiday stress.

holiday stress
Image: Jeremy McKnight (unsplash.com)

Causes of Holiday Stress

There are a lot of factors that contribute to holiday stress and it is not limited to physical strains like body pain from too much holiday shopping and preparation. Here are a few more causes and risk factors to the stress we feel during the yuletide season:

Financial pressure. Did you know that holiday spending actually begins in October? Early holiday shopping only means more pressure to produce the money to finance it. Not to mention there will be last minute expenses on the actual event days. 

Unrealistic expectations. Social media marketing plays a huge role in setting unrealistic expectations when it comes to the holidays. When you see on TV or the internet that everything needs to look and feel festive, you’d want to be the same for you and your family, no matter the cost.

Too many commitments. The holiday season is all about love and togetherness and we’d want to celebrate it with all our family and friends as much as we can, making us commit to gatherings than our feeble bodies can handle. Trying to juggle too many commitments during the holidays would ultimately take its toll on our health, affecting our immune system and well-being, leading to body pains, stress and even sickness.

Over Commercialization. The average American consumer spends $1,226 on holiday gifts alone and this amount doubles in households with incomes ranging above $100k. This is all thanks to over commercialization – or in taking unfair advantage of people’s emotional attachment to the holidays. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Depression is not something to laugh about and SAD is one of its many forms. It is a kind of depression that relates to the changes in seasons and would also begin and end about the same time each year just the same as how the seasons would. It usually appears during late fall or early winter and would go away once the season changes. 

Fatigue. The holidays require a lot of energy to be able to power through all the activities lined up for the whole season. If you are not prepared for the holiday rush, then you will be in for heavy bouts of body pain, headaches and the like.

Most Stressful Situations During The Holidays

We all know but hate to admit it, that the most wonderful time of the year is also the most stressful. Just the preparations leading to the actual holiday events alone can be a major cause of undue stress. But some of the most stressful situations during the holidays can be traced back to our desire to please the people we care about – our families, friends and even our colleagues. Part of holiday stress management is having to deal with situations like these:

Dealing with toxic relatives. We all have aunts, uncles and cousins we really cannot stand but have to deal with during holiday dinners. It only happens once a year after all. But the stress that comes with answering awkward questions and doing silly family traditions can take its toll on your mental and physical health. 

Hosting multiple parties for different groups of friends. Trying to accommodate different sets of friends on different activities and events can be very stressful and more so if you are the host. You might think it would be easier to host several parties for different sets of friends but you are just making it more stressful for you. Remember, you can not please everybody.

Evading over-the-top office parties. Are you trying to evade your office party that requires you to shell out a lot of money or stay late in the office? Evading will only make it more stressful for you and eventually affect your health. Learn to say no (respectfully) to holiday events you would rather not be a part of. 

holiday stress
image: Eugene Zhyvchik (unsplash.com)

Effects of Holiday Stress

Needless to say, holiday stress has a massive effect on our health and overall well-being. It may be due to the fact that big holiday celebrations do not happen on a regular basis and are compressed in a couple of chilly weeks towards the end of the year and on to the start of the next one. Of all its effects, here are the ones you should definitely watch out for:

Weakened Immune System. It’s no surprise that overworking yourself during the season – be it for holiday preparations or working overtime to make a few extra dollars for gifts – comes with a price. A weaker immune system may not be instantly felt but it will surely take its toll after a few weeks of continued stress and fatigue. This will ultimately lead to sickness like fever and colds. But it can also set you up to be more vulnerable to even more serious illnesses or viruses.

Chronic body pain. This is especially true for people who already have existing pains in their joints and other parts of their body. But that’s not to say a healthy, thriving individual is not prone to developing chronic body pain. If you do not practice stress management on regular days then it’s highly likely you would not be able to cope with holiday stress. 

Reduced energy. The heavy stress brought by the holiday season can also cause exhaustion and extreme fatigue which further leads to reduced energy. We’ve all experienced not being on 100% on regular work days but it sure is amplified ten times more during the holidays. 

Without proper stress management, you sure are in for a season full of body pain. I have a few tips to managing these holiday stress effects in the section to come.

10 Ways to Address Holiday Stress

There really is no escaping the holiday season and the stress it brings. Even if you try to avoid the holiday rush, your normal day-to-day activities may still be affected by the people around you who practice holiday traditions.

So it is better to practice good stress management during the holidays rather than to evade it entirely. Here are 10 ways to address holiday stress:

    1. Prepare an action plan. Making a to-do list and a shopping list ahead of time will save you the trouble and stress of thinking about what to buy for gifts and holiday events to prioritize. Try to compute and incorporate the time you need for each activity to make sure you still have time to rest and sleep.
    2. Stick to your budget. Be diligent in following your budget allocation for gifts, holiday food and events. Do not go overboard and break the bank just to please your family and friends. Going broke during and after the holidays will only aggravate and extend the holiday stress.
    3. Respectfully decline. You can only do so much during the holiday season. That said, you cannot be in all the parties, office events and family gatherings as much as you want to. Prepare to decline certain invitations or bump off events if you cannot say no to a boss or family member.
    4. Try something new. Cultural and familial traditions are practiced more during holidays than on any other time of the year. But not all traditions can be custom-fitted to changing times and you need to be able to try something new while still incorporating your traditions with respect. Don’t be afraid to spice up your holiday dinners with new dishes and games to make it more fun for everyone.
    5. Prioritize yourself. You are already giving back to everyone else in your life this holiday season so be sure to give yourself a break in between events and activities. Give yourself some time off to get enough sleep in time for the next set of holiday events. Meditation is one good way to manage holiday stress as is helps the body relax through proper breathing. It restores the body’s calm state and helps repair damage already caused by stress.
    6. Boost your diet with stress-busters. It doesn’t take much to protect your body and immune system against holiday stress. These are organic solutions to add to your holiday diet:

      • Blood Orangeslucky for you, this fruit is in season during the winter holidays. It is a perfect addition to your diet as it contains more vitamin C than the regular orange. It will provide a better defense against stress and high blood pressure.
      • Almonds a great alternative to unhealthy snacks while you are out shopping for gifts or busy cooking away in the kitchen. Almonds contain high levels of vitamin E and B vitamins that can greatly improve your mood and strengthen your immune system.
      • Chamomile teapromotes better restful sleep and combats stressors by reducing feelings of anxiety. You can take this on your rest time or before meditation.

        holiday stress
        Image: Evelin Horvath (unsplash.com)
      • Salmon full of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids that support healthy brain functioning, increase endorphin levels and improve overall mood. One serving of salmon also contains more than half the vitamin D you need daily so this is one dish you don’t want to miss out on in your holiday menu
    7. Take supplements. Supplements containing vitamin C or B vitamins can give you a boost in energy and fight against further stress and illness. Take these as recommended to aid your body especially on days with consecutive parties and events for the holiday season.
    8. Take time to exercise. The holiday season is no reason to skip on exercise. Even just light stretching and cardio can help you endure the long shopping hours or the back pain from carrying all the groceries and gifts.
    9. Get plenty of sleep. No matter how many supplements you take or healthy foods you incorporate in your holiday meals, if you don’t get plenty of sleep you will still feel tired the next morning. Give your body the time to recuperate by sleeping uninterrupted for enough hours.
    10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Seek professional help if you are feeling overwhelmed and swamped with all the holiday stress and shenanigans. A big chunk of stress management is dealing with stressors that affect your mental state. Do not be discouraged if you don’t know how to deal with it. Ask for help. Your mental health should be a priority all year round.

If push comes to shove and you start to feel body pain from all the stress, don’t wait until all the festivities are over.  Schedule a consult with our specialist today!

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