Don’t let stress get the best of your holidays

The Christmas lights and decorations are going up everywhere and along with it you may notice your stress level going up too. The holidays are supposed to be a joyous occasion marked by meaningful traditions, family connections, spiritual rejuvenation and just plain fun.

Every year, in an effort to pull off a perfect ‘Hallmark’ holiday, you might find yourself facing a dizzying array of demands. Work, parties, shopping, baking, cleaning, and scores of chores can take a toll on you. Relationships, finance and physical demands can create stress at any time and are usually heightened by the holidays, as we are expected to be more time, spend more money and do more chores to accommodate the holiday celebrations.

Finding a balance between these demands and having fun may be the best gift you can give yourself for this holiday season. However, the best thing about holiday stress is it’s predictable. Unlike many other types of negative stress we encounter in life, we know when holiday stress will begin and end, and therefore, we can make plans to reduce the amount of stress we experience and the negative impact it has on us. By learning some stress management tools, the better equipped you will be to preventing, minimizing and managing stress as it arises.

Recognising your stress triggers, whether it is financial, relationships and/or physical demands may allow you to plan your stress free holidays better. Before you get overwhelmed by too many holiday demands, it’s important to decide what you personally want.

For example, if you usually become overwhelmed by the demands of baking, carolling, shopping, sending cards, visiting relatives and other activities that leave you exhausted by January, you may want to examine your priorities. Picking a few favourite activities, leave out some gifts and really enjoying the company you are spending the time with, may allow you to have a more relaxed and fun holiday. If you cannot omit any of these, then plan ahead of time; write your Christmas cards early, budget for the gifts and make sure to get enough rest to enjoy the flurry of activity.

It is also important to be aware of your limitations with your family and friends. Remember, holidays are for celebration and togetherness. Acknowledging that family gathering can be stressful can help as you may be able to adjust the activities, time frame and location which are best suited for a relaxed and fun family atmosphere.

If you are spending the holidays alone, consider inviting a group of friends to your home or to another location like a restaurant or a beach. Volunteering to help those less fortunate may also be a great way to spend the holidays. We have a number of volunteer opportunities to choose from in the Cayman Islands where your help will be greatly appreciated. These experiences can be rewarding, and by focusing on what you are giving rather than what you are lacking can be pleasant.

Schedule your activities and chores to be completed; don’t forget to include some downtime to relax. Prioritise and eliminate the less important activities. Make sure to continue your exercise and self-care routine to stay calm and relax during the holidays to keep your stress low.

Remember, the more stress management tools you have at your disposal, the better you will be at preventing, minimising and managing it. Holidays can be hectic, so make sure to take extra care of yourself and plan to minimise the stress. Enjoy the break you deserve.

Thinn Aung is a counsellor with the Employee Assistance Programme. To speak with one of our professional counsellors, please call 949-9559 or email us at [email protected] to schedule a confidential appointment.