The holidays are fast approaching. While it's often a time of togetherness, warmth and relaxation, it also comes with expectations — some of which can be pretty big. Buying gifts, planning big family gatherings, arranging for houseguests, dealing with problematic family members — and everything else that goes along with the holidays — can be a big trigger for stress.
As the holiday season begins to ramp up, what can we do to de-stress before the games begin? Here are some tips to keep in mind as commitments pile up and we start sliding back down the holiday stress highway.
While you're already looking over your November and December calendar, it's just as important to actually schedule downtime as it is to book yourself for holiday parties, Dr. Alok Trivedi, a human behavior and psychological performance expert and founder of the Aligned Performance Institute, tells SheKnows. "It's important to carve out time to be by yourself," he explains. "Even as little as 30 minutes per day can have tremendous benefits. Do something you truly enjoy or just soak in the peace and quiet."
Set limits on gift giving
When you sit down to make your holiday shopping lists, it's very easy to become overwhelmed and stressed out, Dr. Kristen Fuller, a physician at the Center for Discovery, tells SheKnows. "Set limits on gift giving as the holidays should not financially drain you," she explains.
For example, you could settle on specific dollar amounts with your friends or family or decide to just buy for certain family members, such as only kids under 18. Also, consider drawing names for grownups instead of buying a gift for every single member of your family (and then some).
As commitments start to pile up, it's far too easy to fall into the trap of always saying yes to hosting this or planning that or attending another holiday shindig. Doing so, of course, will probably not have the result you're looking for — instead, you may wind up feeling pretty resentful and not very cheerful.
"Cut down on unnecessary events and obligations to allow personal time to decompress and unwind," Fuller suggests. "Spreading yourself too thin can create unneeded stress."
Avoid conversation triggers
Unless you, your friends and family have the exact same mindset, it's best to avoid conversations that can trigger unpleasantness, says Fuller. "Seriously, stay away from talks about politics, religion and race around the table," she warns. "This only leads to food fights, hurt feelings and family divides."
Be mindful of eating
The holidays naturally bring an abundance of food basically everywhere you go. This makes it far too easy to grab a few bites when you're feeling tense, which can lead to other issues, such as tummy troubles.
"Many of us tend to eat to handle the emotional chaos instead of addressing it," explains Trivedi. "If something is bothering you, don't turn to food. Address it no matter how insignificant it may seem."
Have a strategy in place
While holiday-related stress can pop up at a moment's notice, that doesn't mean you can't already have a plan in place to deal with it. In fact, start those plans now, says Fuller.
"Have a 'buddy' that you can check in with during difficult meals or help you if you begin to struggle or panic," she suggests. "Ask if you can lean on them when dealing with negative thoughts. Knowing that there is someone who can help through tough times can be extremely powerful."
While the holidays can be quite stressful, these tips can help you navigate the next two months as Thanksgiving comes and goes and the winter holidays are at your doorstep. Take time for yourself, plan ahead and say no to requests you don't think you'll have the bandwidth to handle — and you might be able to pare down that inevitable holiday stress before it even becomes an issue.