How to Handle Holiday Stress

How to Handle Holiday Stress

With the holidays upon us, it’s easy to get swept up in the season that claims the title of “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. Unfortunately, it’s that kind of pressure and often unrealistic expectation that we impose on ourselves that leads to increased stress and depression during the holidays. From navigating personal and financial demands of the season, to meeting year-end targets at work, maintaining a healthy work-life balance can seem next to impossible. However, as with any looming deadline, preparation is the key to success. You can help fight overwhelm by being pre-emptive and identifying key triggers ahead of time that make you feel anxious around the holidays. Here are just a few ways to cope with some common challenges.

Get planning

On a calendar, pencil in every confirmed social gathering, holiday party, children’s play, recitals, concerts, or out of town guests you are hosting. Make sure to also note any doctor’s appointments, days you might have to work overtime or take out of office meetings. Next, book in time to get things done like shopping, cooking, or cleaning. Factor in extra time (at least 25%) to account for long lineups, traffic, and other unexpected delays. Avoid leaving things to the last minute, and do not over-commit or overbook yourself to please others. During all the hustle and bustle, it’s important to make time to do what you enjoy, even if that means taking some time for yourself. 

Set a budget and stick to it 

Apart from the tradition of buying gifts for loved ones, holidays expenses can add up quicker than you can say “bah humbug”. Buying outfits, alcohol, food/groceries (especially if hosting out of town guests), travel expenses (gas, flight, food in transit), and donations can all contribute to credit card statement shock once your bills come due. Unless you already know your income for the month, find out if your employer will be giving out holiday bonuses so you may budget accordingly. Then decide on a maximum dollar amount you are comfortable with spending over the holidays. If you’re operating on a tight budget, determine where you can save on expenses and come up with creative ways to scale back. For example, shop during sales or buy second hand, organize a Secret Santa gift exchange, or meet friends or coworkers at a restaurant vs. hosting a holiday party, are all low cost alternatives to reduce the financial burden of the holidays.

Ask for help

For some, the holidays are commonly associated with bad memories, feelings of sadness and sometimes grief. That’s why it’s important to know and make use of available programs and services that are offered as part of Health Canada’s workplace wellness initiatives. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) gives employers, employees, and immediate family members access to a dedicated team of highly qualified mental health professionals. Seeking support at any time of the year can be a direct approach to finding solutions and addressing your concerns. 

Take a vacation 

Did you know that in England, most people refer to vacations as “holidays”? In fact, holidays are defined as a period of time in which one can relax and enjoy their time off away from home. What better way to take the pressure out of the holiday season than by flying off to your happy place? But whether its sunshine or slopes you’re after, before you embark on your real holiday, make sure your company’s insurance benefits package includes out of country travel coverage. Remember, the intention behind this trip is to reduce your stress, not invite more in with the risk of unexpected events.

Volunteer in your community

The holidays can be a very busy time for non-profit organizations. Together with your colleagues, agree upon a shared cause the office would like to support, and then collectively fundraise or volunteer for a charity with that mandate. Local shelters, for example, highly depend on donations of socks, food, and their volunteers’ time to be able to meet the demand of the holiday season. Quite often, simply spending time with those less fortunate than you can put things into perspective, and serve as a reminder of things we ought to be grateful for. 


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