There's no doubt the holidays can be exhilarating. At the same time, they are often stressful and overwhelming. Many people find the holiday season more stressful than other times of year due to all the added pressures associated with holiday celebrations, not to mention the extra stress on their pocketbooks. The exact sources of stress vary from person to person, but there are some stressors that are very common. According to a report by the American Psychological Association, the most common sources of holiday stress include:

  • Work obligations interfering with holiday celebrations
  • Not getting enough time off work to enjoy visiting with friends and family
  • Money problems associated with the holidays
  • Pressure from other to participate in gatherings and activities

Experiencing heightened stress levels during the holidays is very common. About 25 percent of people surveyed in this report said that they experience fatigue often during the holidays, with another 68 percent saying that they experience holiday fatigue at least some of the time. As for stress, 20 percent of people experience stress often around the holidays, with another 61 percent reporting that they experience stress at least sometimes during this season. Furthermore, 11 percent of people say that they often feel irritable during the holidays. Women are more likely than men to be negatively affected by holiday stress, probably because women are more likely to be in charge of cooking, shopping, festivities and decorating.

It's unfortunate that so many people have to experience the holidays in this way. Not only are stress and lack of energy unpleasant to experience in the moment, but the holidays also make people more likely to deal with stress in unhealthy ways, such as sedentary TV-watching, drinking and overeating. In the long run, behaviors such as these actually make stress worse. This holiday season, choose to find healthy ways to cope with the chaos.

How to Make Your Holiday Season Peaceful and Enjoyable

To maximize your enjoyment of the holidays, set clear priorities and forget about perfectionism. Rather than trying to create the perfect holiday celebration, cultivate realistic expectations. If you are like most people, your number one priority during the holidays is likely to spend quality time with friends and family. If you make this your priority, the less-important things will fall aside to make room. If you can set solid priorities during the holiday season, many of the pressures that would normally cause you holiday stress will cease to exist.

The Ultimate Guide to Beating (and Even Preventing!) Holiday StressOne unrealistic expectation that many people subconsciously hold is that they must find the perfect gift for each and every person they know. Don't spend more money than you're really comfortable with just to try to make someone else happy. Your loved one will be just as happy with a "pretty good" gift as with a perfect one. Be sure to stick to your gift budget, especially if money is a source of stress. Shop earlier in the season when there's more of a selection and you don't feel as rushed.

If career obligations are a source of stress for you, do what you can to minimize them. This may entail asking for a couple extra days off or declining to work late during the holiday season.

Share holiday responsibilities. You don't have to do everything yourself. Ask others directly for help with tasks. If being in charge of cooking is a source of stress for you, try hosting a potluck-style holiday celebration instead.

Finally, don't rush yourself. It's okay to do one thing at a time. Take breaks regularly so that you can relax and recharge.

Health Measures for Alleviating Holiday Stress

The above suggestions can help prevent a lot of holiday stress. It's important to also take care of your health in order to prevent stress from taking a negative toll on your body. It's crucial to continue getting enough sleep in spite of your hectic schedule. Adults generally need at least seven hours of sleep each night, and seniors should get at least six. This will be one of the best defenses against stress.

Consider taking a botanical adaptogen. Adaptogens are herbs that help the body cope better with stress, whether that stress is due to illness, exercise, fatigue, or the holidays. Some of the most commonly-used adaptogens include panax ginseng, gingko biloba, Siberian ginseng, damiana and maca root. For maximum benefit, try taking a supplement that combines more than one of these adaptogens into one formula.

When stress does occur, try not to fall prey to the numerous unhealthy ways of relieving stress. Opportunities to overeat and drink alcohol make themselves more prominent during the holiday season. Instead, if you're feeling stressed, do something relaxing like meditation. Or, even better, go for a brisk walk. Exercise is great for you in so many ways, and it's a powerful stress-reliever. Plus, being in the sun increases your serotonin levels, which will help boost your feeling of well-being.

You may also be interested in ...