Stress Management Tips for the Holiday Season
by Stephanie Bolton MA, MT-BC
Sing with me now– it’s beginning to look a lot like chaos, everywhere I go…. The
holiday season is fully upon us– quite possibly the most anticipated and dreaded time of
year. Yes, there is much to appreciate and be thankful for at this time of year. However,
it also promises considerable holiday stress and anxiety for many. Shopping, bills, gift
exchanges, holiday parties, traveling, family, food– it can become overwhelming! And if
you’re one of the many who have experienced a loss this year, or have dealt/are dealing
with a significant life change, or are just a normal, well-adjusted person– the holiday
stress can be crushing. While hiding under the covers until January 1st may sound like
a fabulous option, it’s not exactly realistic.
SO HERE ARE A FEW TIPS TO HELP REGAIN AND RETAIN YOUR
MENTAL HEALTH THIS HOLIDAY SEASON (OR WATCH THE
Take a minute a few times a day to just breathe. Inhale, exhale, count to 60. (And as
someone once told me– don’t curse between the numbers!) You can do this over your
morning cup of coffee, while you wait in line at the lunch counter, right before you make
an important business call, sitting in carline to pick the kids up from school– anytime.
The simple act of focusing on your breathing can reduce your stress and give you a
greater sense of peace. Even better, do it while listening (or singing along quietly) to
your favorite holiday song!
2. PHONE A FRIEND.
Sometimes it helps to just vent to your buddy about how awful the crowds were at the
mall, or the latest shenanigans of your kids, or the new “holiday mandate” from your in-
laws. Commiserate, and find the humor in the situation. Then–
3. GET TOGETHER WITH FRIENDS.
Take a break from the insanity and have lunch, go for cocktails, hit the mall as a pack
and conquer the sales, maybe even have a marathon gift-wrapping session. Attend one
of the many holiday concerts that are inevitably happening in your community. Or go ice
skating in the park with everyone’s kids. Spending quality time with those you love, and
who love you, is so very important in keeping the stress at bay.
4. BUT DON’T FORGET THE “ME” TIME ALONE.
Equally important to spending time with friends/family is to be sure you’re taking enough
time for yourself. Practicing good self-care this time of year is essential. Take a longer
shower, linger over your coffeehouse latte, read a good book, go for a walk, drive
around and enjoy the holiday decorations, bundle up and attend the concert in the park.
5. CREATE A PLAYLIST OF ONLY THOSE HOLIDAY SONGS YOU
LOVE AND LISTEN TO IT EXCLUSIVELY.
Now this one might seem a little odd, but stay with me here. There are thousands, if not
millions, of renditions of popular holiday tunes. Let’s be honest– some are better than
others. And yes, it’s nice that local radio stations play holiday music 24/7 starting the
day after Halloween. But a person can only listen to “Grandma Got Run Over By a
Reindeer” so many times before wanting to strangle a reindeer. Plus, think about it– this
is one area of the holiday season where you can have total and complete control over
what happens. Pick the songs you absolutely love and only listen to them. The reindeer
will thank you for it. (And if you’re finding that your playlist is on the short side, check out
the daily holiday music postings on my Facebook page here.)
6. BE REALISTIC ABOUT THE SEASON.
It’s easy to watch Christmas movies and TV commercials portraying the “perfect
holiday” and compare it to our lives. This can lead to disappointment, feelings of
inadequacy, and a general sense of let down that we’re not measuring up somehow.
Your house might not be magazine shoot ready before the holiday party, but I’ll bet it
looks pretty nice! Maybe you didn’t get all 27 batches of cookies baked before the
cookie swap. But you did spend quality time with your kids making 3 kinds of sugar
cookie cutouts. Perhaps you accidentally burned dinner and had to go out to a
restaurant with the in-laws. But your mother-in-law shared that she once did the same
thing when her in-laws came to visit!
Life happens. Holidays happen (every year!). Sometimes real life mirrors the comic
holiday song “The 12 Pains of Christmas!” What’s important is being kind to yourself
when things come up a little short of expectations or don’t go exactly as planned. Laugh
more, go to bed early, and try again tomorrow.
And if you find that you’ve tried all these tips and you’re still feeling overwhelmed by
anxiety and holiday stress, it might be time to talk to a mental health professional who
can help you sort it all out.
You can call me at Healing Sounds Music Therapy, 256-655-
0648, Monday through Friday 8am-5pm. I’m always happy to answer questions or refer
you to another therapist who might be a better fit for your specific needs/schedule!