There’s no doubt this holiday season will look different for most families than in years past, but that doesn’t mean you have to let stress and anxiety get the best of you. With some simple holiday stress tips, you’ll be able to cope with the demands and uncertainty of the season and have a relaxing, joy-filled season.
82% OF PEOPLE SAY THE HOLIDAYS ARE STRESSFUL
As moms, we tend to take on most of the holiday to-dos. Between planning holiday meals, sending holiday cards, shopping for gifts, and everything else that has to get done, this time of year is by default a stressful one, but concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic are only making our stress levels worse.
According to a recent survey by N26, a mobile banking platform, 82% of people say the holidays contribute to feelings of stress, making them feel a bit more anxious about the season.
Another survey by OnePoll conducted on behalf of HelloFresh found that 53% of people think holiday stress will double this year, and 1 in 10 are even choosing not to celebrate.
HOLIDAY STRESS TIPS FOR MOMS
Stress is insidious and linked to fatigue, irritability, headaches, productivity, and anxiety, and depression. Stress can affect relationships, get in the way of making time for self-care, and lead to emotional eating.
So although stress is inevitable this time of year and in the midst of a pandemic, finding ways to cope will be key to your physical, mental, and emotional health. Read on for 10 holiday stress tips to get you through.
1. EMBRACE NEW WAYS OF CELEBRATING THE HOLIDAYS
While you may have had plans to travel to visit family or have family visit you, this year might have everyone staying put.
According to a recent survey by Travelocity, 60% of Americans will be staying home this holiday season.
If you can’t gather with your family or your traditions will be altered this year, it’s definitely disappointing but that doesn’t mean the holidays have to be a wash.
The first step is to acknowledge your feelings and allow yourself to feel what you feel, whether that’s frustration, disappointment, sadness or another emotion.
Then, think about what you can do differently this year to make the most of the holidays.
Perhaps something you do every year like making several batches of cookies is more of an obligation than anything and can be let go.
Or maybe you’ve always wanted to make your grandmother’s famous pumpkin pie and now you have more time to do it.
You may even use this year as an opportunity to come up with new traditions you can do with your family.
Also, while many people think we have to come to terms with the new normal (a term I wish we could banish from our vernacular), I’d rather take the perspective of this too shall pass.
2. EAT REAL FOOD
With festive meals, holiday-themed everything, and sweets everywhere you turn this time of year, it can be really hard to eat healthy.
Yet focusing on real, whole foods can fuel your body and your mind, lower inflammation, and reduce your stress levels.
Be sure to include plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean sources of protein, and healthy fats, and whole grains, instead of refined grains which will spike your blood sugar.
Related: 8 Holiday Stress-Busting Foods For Moms
3. MAKE TIME TO MOVE
With all that you have to do throughout the holiday season, it’s easy for your workouts to take a backseat.
Yet making time every day to get up and move is one of the best holiday stress tips and key to your overall health.
Research shows that people have lower levels of stress hormones such as cortisol after they exercise.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults get 150 minutes a week of exercise but you can also break it down into three, 10 minute sweat sessions a day. Some ideas include:
- Barre classes
- Cardio kickboxing
- HIIT workout
- Mixed martial arts
- Non-contact boxing
- Weight training
If working out on your own isn’t an option, put the baby in the stroller and take a walk. Or head out with the kids for a bike ride, a game of catch, or something else you can enjoy together.
4. SCALE BACK YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Instead of heading to the mall, do most or all of your holiday shopping online—which more than 1 in 5 people are doing anyway, a recent survey by LendingTree found.
Also, between distance learning, work, and everything else, this year might be the year that you scale back on other holiday to-dos.
For example, instead of baking 5 different types of Christmas cookies, let your kids pick two of their favorites and make those.
Or instead of sending holiday cards, send an e-card or record a family video instead.
5. SWAP GIFTS FOR A CHARITABLE DONATION
Finances are tight this year for many families, so you may not be exchanging gifts with extended family members or curbing your spending altogether.
Yet if you can swing it, you can all decide that instead of gifts, you will all make a donation to a charity of your choice and buy gifts only for the kids.
Not only will you save money and it’s a lot less stressful than figuring out what to buy your brother who has everything, but donating to charity helps others and makes you feel good.
In fact, a July 2017 study in Nature Communications found that simply thinking about doing something generous like giving away money to someone else is linked to higher levels of happiness.
6. GET HELP WITH HOLIDAY TO-DOS
With this year’s scaled-back holidays, there may be fewer items on your list, but there’s still plenty to do.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself.
First, look at your list and label each task. If there are items that you think you should do or you feel pressured to do, but you don’t really want to do, think about whether they’re even necessary in the first place.
If they’re not, let them go and put your energy toward holiday tasks that are meaningful.
For those tasks that are important but you could use a little help accomplishing, ask your partner to pitch in or consider outsourcing them.
For example, if writing holiday cards isn’t where you want to spend your time, you can outsource them to a company like Sent-Well.com which sends personalized, hand-written cards.
There are also concierge service companies that will do your gift shopping, grocery shopping, and gift wrapping.
Depending on their ages, your kids can also help out by wrapping gifts for their grandparents and teachers and putting stamps on holiday cards, for example.
Also, accepting that done is better than perfect can be freeing.
7. START YOUR DAY WITH OFF ON A SOLID FOUNDATION
The more stressed out you are, the less likely you’ll be to eat healthy, exercise, and make sleep a priority—all habits that are important for combating stress.
Therefore, one of the best holiday stress tips is to start your day off with a ritual.
For me, that’s my First 20: 20 minutes or so to pray, read the Bible, and read devotionals like those from Proverbs 31 Ministries.
Other ideas include a daily Yoga or gratitude practice, a walk in nature, or meditation using an app like Calm or Headspace.
8. KID HAS FOOD ALLERGIES? THINK AHEAD
As a mom with a child who has food allergies, the holidays are always a source of stress.
There are new foods, family recipes, and a higher risk for a reaction or anaphylaxis to occur.
Also, if other family members don’t have food allergies, it’s unlikely that they’ll read food labels, or even know how to read them.
Some even think food allergies are no big deal.
If you’re staying at home where you have more control over what’s being served, food allergies are much easier to manage.
Yet if you’ll be going to someone else’s house, be sure to talk to the host ahead of time about your child’s food allergies.
Also, bring a safe dish or two that your child can enjoy and not feel left out.
Related: 6 Tips To Manage Your Kid’s Food Allergies During The Holidays
9. GET MORE SLEEP
Holiday stress can take a toll on the quality and amount of sleep you’re getting.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has added a new level of stress and made sleep even more hard to come by.
According to a recent survey by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 33% of Americans say the pandemic has had an impact on their sleep quality, 30% have experienced changes in their ability to fall asleep, and 29% have had a change in the amount of sleep they get each night.
While stress and anxiety can lead to insomnia and sleep problems, lack of sleep can also contribute to stress and affect your mood.
So one of the best holiday stress tips is to try to prioritize sleep and have healthy sleeping habits as much as possible.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.
Try making small changes to your sleep habits, like going to bed 30 minutes earlier.
Also, power down devices 1 to 2 hours before bedtime, use black-out shades, and find ways to wind down before bed such as turning off the news, and doing something relaxing like reading, taking a bath, or practicing meditation.
10. PRIORITIZE SELF-CARE AND GET SUPPORT
While we’ve spent more time at home and away from others over the past 8 months, surprisingly, research shows the pandemic hasn’t increased levels of loneliness.
A recent report by the Ad Council found that COVID-19 contributed to a slight increase in isolation, but didn’t cause an increase in feelings of loneliness.
There’s more encouraging news.
According to a joint report by the Brigham Young University Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy (SCED) and Deseret News, 56% of people say they appreciate their spouses more because of the pandemic and 80% say that parenting is very important to their sense of identity, compared to 71% in 2018.
Still, levels of stress, anxiety and depression are on the rise so finding ways to cope with this time of year and get support is key.
Here are some holiday stress tips to consider:
- Eat healthy, real food.
- Make time to exercise and move more throughout the day.
- Read the Bible, pray and read Christian devotionals. I like Embraced, by Lisa TerKeurst and Out of The Spin Cycle by Jen Hatmaker.
- Practice meditation and mindfulness.
- Do calming activities: take a bath, journal, get an adult coloring book.
- Laugh more: watch funny videos or do Laughter Yoga.
- Connect with family, friends, and social groups virtually or in-person. MOPS was a lifesaver for me.
- Download an app for stress and anxiety like Sanvello.
- Find a therapist through a platform like BetterHelp.