Christmas can be a significant source of anxiety, and today we are looking at ways to reduce Christmas stress. Many people feel overwhelmed by the excess expectations and become depressed during the holidays. Whether self-imposed or otherwise, there may also be expectations to outdo last year and create a wonderful Christmas with more extravagant presents and perhaps a perception around the most important meal of the year. In addition, a lack of time and money can often contribute to Christmas stress during the holiday season.
Most of us are aware of the opposing effects that stress can have on our bodies. If left unchecked, it can impact our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, leading to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
With all the cooking, decorating, visiting, and gift exchanges, the holidays seem more like trying to meet a high-pressure deadline than a vacation. So today, we are sharing a few tips to reduce Christmas stress to ease the strain you may encounter over the holidays.
Start putting pen to paper and list things you must do for Christmas. Items such as presents, food, decorations, or travel arrangements. Make a list as detailed as possible, and include phone numbers or email addresses to make contacting people or places easier.
Try to prioritize the items on your list. Are they a bird, a dog, or a whale? Do not overestimate how much you can do on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Delegate responsibility for specific tasks to other family members. Many hands make light work, and this will reduce your workload. Keep your list for next year; it’ll need tweaking and updating but will give you reminders of the things you need to think about. Planning is the first step you must take to reduce Christmas stress and focus on your Christmas spirit.
A poll by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 2004 reflected that 62 percent of people feel more stressed about money during the holidays.
Gift buying, entertainment expenses, and travel can all add to financial anxiety. However, here are some steps that you can take to limit financial tension and in turn reduce Christmas stress.
Set A Budget
Ensure that all your usual expenses are accounted for so you do not fall short on bills such as rent or a car payment. In addition, planning for any other spending over the holidays a few months in advance can be helpful.
Once these core items have been accounted for in your budget, you can calculate how much you can spend on gifts. Again, being realistic about your budget will help you not overspend.
Make One Financial Decision At A Time
Make sure that you space purchase decisions out. Trying to make too many purchases at once is overwhelming. This can commonly lead to an increased risk of overspending. There is nothing wrong with purchasing a Christmas gift for someone in July! A great way to reduce Christmas stress is to eliminate financial decisions needed in December.
Over the festive season, it isn’t easy to steer clear of stores and shopping malls. Limit the time you spend in these places as it can help curb your spending. Manage impulsive spending by taking only the cash you can afford to pay on shopping trips and leaving your credit/debit cards at home.
Keep in mind what is essential that is, friends and family. Spending beyond your means can overshadow the true meaning of Christmas. If your expenses exceed your monthly budget, remember that your relationships with friends and family are more important than material objects.
Rainy Day Fund
An excellent practice I have used in the past that has worked very well for me is to set up a separate savings account specific to the holiday season. There are a few Canadian financial vehicles with high-interest accounts at WealthSimple or Tangerine, where you can set up a free savings account and accumulate high interest. Once you have the account set up, you can pay yourself in several different ways.
Reduce Christmas stress by contributing to yourself every payday. In simplest terms, you pay yourself $1 more than the last payday. For those who get paid bi-weekly (26 times a year), this means in one year; you will have $351 plus the interest you accumulated! How does this work?
On your first payday in January, take out $1 from your cheque and deposit it into your high-interest savings account. On the next payday, take out $2 ($1 from last payday + $1) and deposit it. On your third payday, take out $3 and deposit it…and so on. Finally, on your 26th payday of the year, you will take out $26 and deposit it into your account for a total of $351 + interest!
A variation on this is to pay yourself $2 per payday. You are doing the same method. You pay yourself $2 on your first cheque, $4 on your second, $6 on your third, and so on. On your 26th payday, you pay yourself $52 and now will enjoy $702 + interest for the holidays!
For those on a tighter budget, the Incremental Payday method above can get expensive towards the end of the year. Further, it introduces a constantly changing amount to your budget. I have an alternative way for you to take care of the financial burden and reduce Christmas stress.
If you average the payments for the $1 method over 26 weeks, it comes to $13.50 a payday (bi-weekly). Instead of incrementing every payday, put aside $13.50 for every cheque into the high-interest savings account. You will still end up with $351 + interest! If the $2 method interests you, the average works to $27 a payday. Put that aside every cheque instead, and you walk away with $702 + interest!
If you combine your budget with one of the above Incremental Payday methods, bills around the holidays become much more manageable.
Although shopping locally has many advantages, shopping just before Christmas can be particularly stressful, with hundreds of other stressed people trying to find the perfect gift with little time.
Shop online from the comfort of your own home. You’ll not only save time and be less stressed but will probably save money too as you can compare website pricing. Be sure to buy from reputable online retailers and check that they can deliver before the day required.
If you haven’t already tried it, you may also be able to do your food shopping online and have it delivered directly to your door. Remember to book your delivery slot early, as the prime delivery slots will always go first. We want to reduce Christmas stress, not add to it by worrying about shipping!
Go For A Walk – REALLY!
The solution for holiday anxiety could be just as simple as taking a walk around the block. Research by Princeton University concluded that physical activity reorganizes the brain to reduce its stress response.
Regular exercise can help decrease tension and boost your mood. Furthermore, exercising produces endorphins — natural painkilling chemicals released in the brain. As a result, they improve your ability to sleep and reduce Christmas stress. Research also shows that if you convince the rest of the family to come along on the walk, your stress levels will be reduced even further. That is, of course, as long as they are not the source of your stress. 😊
When stressed, our heart rate increases and our breathing pattern tightens. This reaction is all part of the fight or flight syndrome. Work on reversing this process and take time to breathe deeply.
Breathe deeply through your nose, hold for 10 seconds and then breathe slowly out through your mouth; repeat for a few minutes to instantly help reduce Christmas stressful feelings. Check out the Six relaxation techniques to reduce stress published by Harvard Medical School for other great methods.
Have Some Fun
Laughter goes a long way in support of your mental health. Sometimes this is better than any prescription from your doctor.
Laughter lightens your mood, stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles, and releases endorphins. Laughter also will boost your circulation, help your muscles relax, and lessens physical symptoms associated with stress.
Whether your laughter is spawned by a moment in your favourite movie, jokes from a friend, an ugly Christmas sweater, or an afternoon of fun activities, be sure to include some holiday humour. Even looking forward to a funny event raises relaxation-inducing hormones, decreases stress hormones, and raises your Christmas spirit.
Finding positive, healthy ways to reduce Christmas stress will decrease many adverse health effects. Finding techniques to reduce or eliminate the stress that work best for you will ensure you have a stress-free Christmas.