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, especially if living solo or if there are situations that are presenting an unsettled feeling.
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, the 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.
These stressors, especially when combined with the unrealistic expectations of creating the ideal holiday experience for their families and loved ones, make women particularly prone to mental and physical health problems that can adversely affect them well beyond the holiday season.
Stress Indicators for Women
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.
Experts 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.
Below are some tips to help you reduce your stress levels this holiday season and guide you toward optimizing your mental and physical health.
6 Ways to De-Stress Your Holidays
- 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 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.
- 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.
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.
Holiday travelers should focus on putting up specific, meaningful holiday decorations, like a Christmas tree and stockings, to ease post-holiday cleanup efforts once they arrive back home. Consider visiting family on a designated day other than the actual holiday to ease the strain of traveling with your family in heavy traffic as well as experience a more relaxed, enjoyable visit.
- 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.
- Carve Out “Me Time” and 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. Tis the season!
Eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water daily. Stay on a daily meal schedule to avoid binge eating holiday treats and offerings.
Get eight hours of sleep nightly to boost your body’s immune system, as well as daytime energy levels.
Make time daily to relax and unwind. Do something you truly enjoy doing. For example, relish your time in a soothing bubble bath, curl up with a book, engage in a favorite hobby, treat yourself to a manicure and pedicure, or binge watch your favorite show. Consider self-preservation a necessity on your daily to-do list, rather than a hard-earned reward for accomplishing a mountain of tasks.
- Make Time to Enjoy Your Relationship with Your Partner
Swap kid-sitting with a best gal pal so you and your partner can enjoy a special holiday date or two together. Be sure to reciprocate when she needs a break.
Ask grandparents for the holiday gift of babysitting the grandkids for an evening while you enjoy a couple’s night out. Christmas shopping for the kids doesn’t count!
Enlist a trustworthy high school neighbor to spend an afternoon or evening with your kids while you and your partner enjoy an afternoon jaunt to a café or a romantic dinner for two.
Eliminate 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 – and let it go if something isn’t done exactly as you want or expect.
When decorating, baking, wrapping gifts, creating gifts, or writing cards, play some soothing or upbeat holiday music as a backdrop to your family fun. When you’re done, have an impromptu dance session with the family. Doing so provides a great opportunity to create priceless family holiday moments. A lower stress level thanks to a few extra hands is an extra bonus!
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