For many of us, the holiday season represents a long-awaited joyous time of the year; for others, it’s a period of chaos, stress, and overwhelming expectations. Here at Healthline.com, we recognize that managing the increased demands of family and friends, combined with the difficulty of juggling conflicting social engagements, can very easily taint the holiday spirit. To offer insight on how to manage the chaos, Healthline employees reveal their holiday stressors and how they manage those stressful moments.
Be Active, Be Happy
In the midst of chaos and endless to-do lists, it’s important to find ways to lower your stress level and take care of yourself. “I’m always going a 110%, so I don’t necessarily feel that the holiday season is an extra-pressured time for me,” says Healthline’s president and chief operating officer Dean Stephens. “That said, however, a key way for me to destress is to exercise. You need to release those endorphins. Don’t let the holidays be an excuse to skip exercise. Let it be the opposite—an excuse to exercise.”
Dean is right; endorphins are your friend. Released during prolonged physical activity, these brain chemicals act as natural pain and stress relievers. Endorphins also help regulate appetite, release sex hormones, and boost the immune system. All of these can be valuable during the busy holiday season. Even if you don’t observe the holidays and, therefore, don’t feel any extra pressure, exercise should be a part of your healthy lifestyle.
Make Personal Time a Tradition
Whether you’re the host or the houseguest, large groups of family and friends under one roof can be overwhelming during this time of year. But it’s the holidays, so people get in the spirit and make room for everyone—to a certain extent. “For me, a holiday stressor is family visitors with their unique scheduling demands,” says John Emerson, Healthline’s director of product management. “Something special that my wife and I do is block out Christmas Eve day, which is my wife’s birthday. We clear our schedule completely, go out to a great restaurant, and spend the day together. If there happens to be family visitors, they stay somewhere else. It’s our day.”
John and his wife are on the right track. Personal time can be just as much of a time-honored tradition as family time. By planning ahead and carving out a specified time for yourself, you can enjoy a breather without offending your visiting family or friends. Plus, a break in the action can be good for everyone and will give your houseguests some personal time too.
Take an (Organized) Step Back
We know it’s easier said than done, but try not to lose perspective. The holidays are about feeling grateful and enjoying time together, so don’t let yourself feel so overwhelmed that you miss out on the fun. “The only thing that really stresses me out is having too many things to do—too many parties, too much cooking, getting the tree ready,” says Healthline technical architect Steve Jackson. “To deal with it, I step back and take one thing at a time.”
As simple as it sounds, Steve’s approach is a great way to manage the chaos of the holiday season. Tackle your tasks in an organized manner, rather than attempting to take care of everything at once. When you start feeling overwhelmed, take a break. Even a few minutes—listening to your favorite song, grabbing a quiet bite to eat, or quietly meditating—can make a big difference. To stay organized, create a “to do” list, and divide it into manageable chunks, with a few tasks each day. When you complete a task, cross it off the list! The sense of accomplishment will boost your mood, and having one less thing to do will lower your stress.
Be Creative, Save Money
The financial pressures of the holidays can easily cause feelings of distress, as commercialism seems to turn the season’s focus into a parade of purchases. With the right mindset, you can rise above gift-giving pressures by getting creative, which will in turn make your gifts even more special. “I find that the financial stress of the holidays can really get to me, but I also realize that giving gifts is part of the fun,” says Rachael Maier, office coordinator at Healthine. “I try to be creative, which usually means making my gifts more personal or more focused on a shared activity—like a hike or going out to the movies on me.”
The benefits of Rachael’s gift-giving strategy go beyond dollars and cents. Having a creative outlet is an effective stress reliever and making things with your hands can bolster your sense of accomplishment. And let’s face it; which sounds more appealing? Fighting your way through a crowded mall full of loud, stressed-out holiday shoppers or spending a quiet night at home immersed in a glass of wine and a fun gift-making project, with happy holiday music playing in the background?
Have Some Faith: Religious, Secular, or Personal
Let’s not underestimate the power of faith because that’s what the season is all about—whether your holiday observation lends itself to a house or worship, a special secular celebration, or simply a positive outlook on life. “For me, it’s stressful trying to balance work and the holidays because it’s year-end crunch time in the office,” says Healthline financial analyst Irene Che. “To cope with it, I try to remind myself that things will work out one way or another. They always do.”
Now that’s the spirit! Although it’s easy to get caught up in social pressure and lose sight of what’s important, try to focus on the positive aspects of this time of year. Embrace the arrival of this new season in whatever way you see fit. Happy Holidays!
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