While the Summer holidays started a while ago for Australian children many working parents will have only just started to be on leave. Often the holiday season is an opportunity to spend time with family and friends, to take some time off work, or even escape for a getaway. That may still be the case for some, however for many people these holidays will look quite different. So, however you are spending your Christmas holidays, quiet and alone or busy with others, or online with friends and family there will inevitably be some stress.
The expectations of cultural norms, social events, gift shopping, and entertaining family or yourself(!) can become too much for even the most festive types. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association 8 out of 10 people expect to experience an increase in stress over the holiday season, and that's without a global pandemic or travel bans!
With stress comes a greater risk of anxiety and depression so it is important to manage it effectively. All is not lost however, there are many ways you can minimize your stress and anxiety to allow you to truly enjoy your holiday however you chose to spend it.
1.Set a Budget
Often when we're in holiday mode we tend to not be as aware of how much money we are spending. I don't often get to the retail shops while I'm working so when I'm on holiday I do tend to spend a bit of time visiting the stores and buying things. However, as my financial responsibilities have grown, I have learnt to budget what I spend on holidays so that I don't experience the 'holiday hangover'.
I remember when we first moved to Sydney, we won a holiday skiing to Canada and spent our money in the same way as if we were still living in London. Well, when the credit card bill came in, I was surprised at how much we had to pay the provider. We had totally adopted the mindset of 'We won this trip so it's ok to buy what we want." Fortunately, we were able to pay off our bill but it did take the shine off the wonderful skiing experience we had. Today, my husband and I laugh at the experience, but it taught us a very important lesson, only spend what you can reasonably afford.
A lot of the stress that we experience during holidays is due to financial pressure and to minimise your stress, set a reasonable budget and stick to it.
While you might be on holiday, your body may not know that or frankly, even care! If you exercise regularly during the normal course of events, then it's important to keep an exercise schedule up when you're on holiday. It doesn't need to be as intense as your regular workout, but it does need to resemble it in some way as that would have already been established as one of your stress reduction strategies, whether you had chosen it or not. To take that away would automatically raise your stress levels without any additional stress.
For those readers who are hoping to use their holiday time to start an exercise routine, know that any activity or exercise you can fit in will help reduce your stress and elevate your mood. It’s going to stimulate endorphin production and trigger a positive feeling in your body.
Even if you are busy on holiday, look to find some time to exercise. Perhaps even incorporate it into what you're doing, you will feel better. Options you might want to consider include walking, jogging, swimming, biking, or even playing sport.
3. Take It Easy
If this year has taught us anything, it would be the importance of self-care, and taking time out for ourselves. Often when we are on holiday, we have a list of things we want to have done by the end of the holiday or if you're having a staycation, a number of chores that have racked up over the last 6 months that need attending to. However you choose to spend your holiday, ensure you set out enough 'me time', a minimum recommendation guide from me would be at least 15 minutes a day.
If you like socialising, remember to set yourself realistic expectations so you don’t exhaust yourself in the process. Think about how many gatherings, how long to attend for and what you eat drink while you're there. It's fun to connect with others and have a laugh but too much of a good thing may not be as restful as you need it to be.
If you do a whole lot of hosting, make sure you delegate - whether you ask everyone to bring a different dish, or you rope in family member to take on certain tasks. There's no glory in being the host who does everything when you are unable to spend time connecting with your guests.
I remember a family holiday with my husband’s family at my mother-in law’s home. We were a big group, 7 adults and 7 children, and my mother-in-law couldn’t host us all of the time. It was impossible. So, I took on the role of drinks for everyone. We had a wonderful time as nobody’s drink stayed empty for long!
4. Stay Smart
Just because you are on holiday it doesn't mean you should let go of your health goals. While many like to indulge on holiday you may want to counteract that with healthy snacks, mindful eating and lots of hydration. Undoing all the healthy choices you made before indulging can create unnecessary stress. Particularly if you pick up a bit of extra weight that you would rather not have.
By all means, enjoy yourself. Make sure that you’re getting plenty of quality sleep, as you are more likely to overindulge after a poor night’s sleep.
5. Choose Your Battles
We all have someone in our circle that rubs us the wrong way from time to time. It’s only natural - not everyone can always get along. Allowing someone else to get under your skin, though, is only going to ruin your holiday and increase your stress levels. Learn to pick your battles, and don’t take the bait. Breathe deeply and count to 3.
If you have a real problem with someone, decide if you can participate in the event or minimise your exposure to them. Or perhaps you are able to set it aside and save it for another day. Even the calmest people can lose their cool during the holidays.
Self-care is conscious choice and this is even more true during times of more stress, such as the holiday season during a pandemic. Make sure to take the time and create a deliberate plan so you can get the most enjoyment from them. Remember, the holidays are supposed to be a time of fun, joy and relaxation, don’t let stress interfere with this great time of year.