With the onset of the holiday season and its whirlwind of sights, sounds, and festivities, feelings of comfort and joy may not be the first thing that comes to mind for many women.
Not surprisingly, studies have found women are more prone to experiencing holiday stress than men, with many women reporting increasingly heightened stress levels through the holidays. Holiday-induced stressors indicated by women include lack of time, not enough money, pressure to give or get gifts, and inability to manage the increased load of entertaining, social obligations, cooking/baking, decorating and holiday traveling on top of everyday work and family responsibilities.
Stress Indicators for Women
One of the best tools for ongoing good health, is to know yourself and be thoughtful of what your mind, body and spirit are experience at any given moment. While not a full list of stress-related indicators, women experiencing high levels of stress are at greater risk of:
- Migraine and tension headaches
- Body aches and fatigue
- Depression, anxiety, or emotional disorders
- Heart problems that may lead to a heart attack or stroke
- High blood pressure
- Eating disorders, bowel problems, acid reflux, and/or ulcers
- Skin disorders
- Menstrual cycle issues
- Decreased sex drive
- Arthritis/immune disorders
Additionally, high stress levels may cause women to experience emotional obstacles and behavioral issues, such as a lack of focus, irritability, anger/hostility, frequent mood swings, excessive smoking, overeating, and excessive alcohol consumption.
Medical providers advise women to be mindful of what triggers their stress and find healthy ways to effectively manage it. Oftentimes, the way we deal with stress actually exacerbates it, turning stress into a constant component of our lives rather than minimizing or eliminating it altogether.
If you ever feel at risk or are worried about the impacts to your own health and well-being, we always, always recommend a call or visit to your personal doctor. Seek help and be gentle with yourself as you work through any complication that may have developed.
Below are some tips to help you reduce your stress levels this holiday season and guide you toward optimizing your mental and physical health.
5 Ways to De-Stress Your Holidays
1. Watch Your Budget
Monitor holiday spending by creating a gift-giving list and budget. For holiday gatherings with extended family or friends, suggest everyone pick a name from a hat and give a gift to one person only. You can also suggest buying one gift per cousin or child, reducing holiday spending. Watch out for holiday sales, use coupons, and take advantage of special offers. Simple, handcrafted gifts from your kitchen or hobby table (as well as your heart) are great gestures for those who are most meaningful to you.
2. Plan Ahead
Prioritize your time by planning ahead, making lists of holiday tasks and goals, and creating a realistic timeline. Cooks preparing the traditional holiday meal can ask others to bring a side dish to lessen the burden. Better yet, suggest going out to a family-friendly restaurant so everyone can enjoy the holiday without the stress of cooking or cleaning up. Cut back on kitchen creations or suggest a cookie swap instead.
3. Embrace Shopping Online
Shop online in the peace and quiet of your living room. Put on some soothing holiday music and light some candles. You can eliminate and avoid crowded stores, holiday sensory overload, and heavy traffic.
4. Learn To Say “No” and Carve Out “Me Time”
Learn to say “No,” sans guilt: Be upfront with others regarding the holidays. If long-distance, well-intentioned in-laws expect you and your family to travel to their house for Christmas brunch, politely state your case for staying home. Offer to travel on a different day during the holiday season. Sift through your holiday event invitations and opt to attend a select few you and your family will enjoy. Politely decline the rest. Doing so helps you enjoy and look forward to the events you do attend while minimizing stress brought on by a tightly-packed, frenetic social schedule.
When creating time for yourself, ensure that you make your health a priority. Initiate an open dialogue with your partner about the holidays and discuss each other’s expectations and desires. Be honest if you need help, and don’t be afraid to ask for it.
Try to include 30 minutes of fitness activity at least five times a week to ease stress and control your body’s cortisol production. Exercise will also provide your brain and body with plenty of feel-good endorphins. Eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water daily. Stay on a daily meal schedule to avoid binge eating holiday treats and offerings. Try for eight hours of sleep nightly to boost your body’s immune system, as well as daytime energy levels. In short, just make time daily to relax and unwind.
5. Limit Expectations
Eliminate any great expectations: Keep holiday goals realistic, bearing in mind what you and your family can comfortably achieve. Enlist help from your partner and kids for completing holiday tasks like decorating, baking, card writing, making or wrapping gifts for friends and family. Doing so provides a great opportunity to create priceless family holiday moments together. A lower stress level thanks to a few extra hands is an extra bonus – and let it go if something isn’t done exactly as you want or expect.