I love the holiday season! It is a great time for getting together with friends and family and a time to reflect on the year. Holiday baking, looking at Christmas lights, and showing appreciation to those in your life by giving gifts are just a few of the many things I enjoy. While I enjoy many things and truly do love the holiday season, it can also be a stressful time. Situations may be challenging, especially if there are increased financial stressors.
For farm and ranch families, the stress is also very real – someone still has to break the ice and feed the livestock, manage financial recordkeeping, tax preparation, evaluate crop yields, and plan for the next growing season; there is lots to do. The downturn in the agricultural economy and weather-related disasters have only compounded the stress many agriculturalists have had to endure. This can make one’s situation seem hopeless. My colleague, Holly Hatton-Bowers shared an article that pointed out the American Psychological Association found that in the US people tend to feel more stressed around the holidays.
Before you become dragged down by negative feelings and stress, try to sprinkle your winter holiday with these seven tips compiled by my colleague, Dr. Holly Hatton Bowers. Doing these practices may help you manage your stress and even find some moments of joy during the holidays.
- Challenge Your Thinking – Often when we are faced with challenges, failures or even criticism, we begin to tell ourselves stories that lead to more stress. It can be helpful to ask yourself, “Is this True?” “Am I being Kind to Myself?” “What can I learn from this experience?” It can also be helpful to remember that feelings come and go. Acknowledge your feelings and also take note that they are not here to stay.
- Set Your Intentions to Eat for Gains, Sleep, and Move – During the Winter Holidays, many of us take joy in eating sweet, sugary and fatty foods. Sometimes our family and friends bake our favorite pies and cookies. Enjoy these foods in small amounts and also be intentional in eating foods that give you energy or a “net gain” for your wellbeing. Before drinking that next sugar filled coffee or soda, choose water. Choose a side of vegetables instead of French fries. It’s is also important to not skip meals which can lead to headaches, draining your energy and lead to you feeling more down. Set your intentions to get sleep. Turn-off technology an hour before bedtime and wake up at the same time each morning. Finally, set your intention to move your body. It is recommended to move your body every 20 minutes for at least two minutes.
- Reach Out and Connect with Your Support System– If you are feeling lonely, sad, or overwhelmed, you are not alone. Sometimes we need a friend or family member to listen or offer us support and help. Expressing your thoughts and feelings with those you trust may be helpful and deepen your relationships. Plan for difficult days by having an activity planned or by checking in with a relative or close friend. If you are having a lot of difficulty, reach out to a mental health expert. If you are feeling very isolated and having serious thoughts of self-harm or suicide call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
- Plan and Budget Expenses – It may feel daunting to stick to a reasonable budget during the holidays. In the moment you may think, I can just charge this and pay it later. Often these impulsive buys can lead to more stress later. Miriam Caldwell in her “Get Tips on Making and Sticking to a Holiday Budget” suggests listing out your holiday expenses, stick to a spending limit, and making a shopping list so that you are less likely to overspend.
- Embrace the Messy – At time we may have expectations for how events and activities will go. We plan celebrations and expect them to be filled with complete joy and fun. Often these expectations may not go as planned. Let go and be ok when this happens. Stop and breathe. It can be helpful to breathe in for a count of 5 and breathe out for a count of 7. Practice this breathing a few times and then tell yourself to embrace the mess.
- Create a To-Do or a Done List – Write down four things you can accomplish and do it! If a to-do list sounds stressful, then try a DONE list. Write down the things that you have accomplished today.
- Cultivate Gratitude – Practicing gratitude can help you de-stress by focusing on what you have, and what you value. Make a list of 5 things/people/experiences you are grateful for.
What will you do to combat your stress during the Winter Holidays? Take time to be present and find ways to intentionally create holiday experiences that are less stressful and a little more pleasant and meaningful.