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Submitted by: Danielle Smart

For many people, the most wonderful time of the year is also the most stressful time of year, and in 2020, with COVID-19 restrictions still impacting all of us in so many ways, the holidays are going to be more stressful than ever. In the United States, the holiday season typically begins before Thanksgiving and lasts until the first weeks of January, leaving many us feeling as if we are running a figurative marathon with the finish line barely appearing on the finish line. So, why are we all stressed? U.S. News and World Report found the top holiday stressors include lack of time, money worries, overcommercialization, gift-giving pressure, family get-togethers, the hassles of travel, and worries about taking time off from work1. This year, with nearly all of us, impacted in one way or another due to the pandemic, additional stressors may include loneliness from not being able to see family, ongoing financial hardships from long-term unemployment/underemployment, lack of access to shopping (for food and/or gifts) opportunities due to store closures, and concerns about being exposed to COVID-19. Another source of holiday stress for many of us stems from the pressure to be happy; specifically, expectations run high for joy, for bringing the family together, for giving gifts that show how much you love those around you, and for a beautiful meal1. Any time we set ourselves up with high expectations, it’s not going to work out that way, and we find ourselves in the “happiness trap” (the more we try too hard to be happy, the more we make ourselves miserable)1.

Is there a way to make the holidays stress-free? The short answer is no, the holidays will never be without stress, but there are some things that you can do to help lessen your stress and, hopefully, increase your holiday happiness. Firstly, acknowledge your feelings, especially if you are experiencing feelings of sadness or grief, as you can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season2. The holidays can increase the feelings of loneliness and isolation, so make sure you reach out to others and seek out community, including religious or other social events or communities; now more than ever, this can be done virtually, through online meeting platforms (like Zoom) or the streaming of virtual events2. Additionally, make sure to reach out to friends and family, through a text, a call, or a video chat, especially if you are not able to visit with them during the holiday season2. Make sure you create a budget before you do your gift and food shopping: decide how much money you can afford to spend and then stick to your budget2. Plan ahead as many things as you can, such as setting aside specific days for shopping or baking, to help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten items or add an extra dish to your menu2. Also, remember that it is okay to say no to events, activities, or projects that you do not want to or do not have the time to participate in; saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed2. Don’t abandon healthy habits just because it is the holidays; remember to eat healthy meals, get plenty of sleep, include regular physical activity in your daily routine, make time for self-care, and avoid excessive tobacco, alcohol, and drug use2. Finally, be realistic! The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year; even though your holiday plans may look different than what you originally expected, you can find ways to meaningful ways to celebrate2. No matter how you celebrate, hopefully, you have a happy and less-stressed holiday season.


*Photo by Atul Choudhary from Pexels