BHealthy Blog

De-stress Your Holiday

The holidays are a time of joy and reflection, but if you’re holiday shopping it can also be a time of stress, especially if you’re tasked with Christmas festivity planning or shopping.

You’re not alone. Adults are feeling joyous but overwhelmed this holiday season, as nearly 9 in 10 (89%) say that concerns such as not having enough money, missing loved ones and anticipating family conflict cause them stress at this time of year, according to the results of a new poll by the American Psychological Association.

In recent years, it seems Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales have stretched over weeks of enticing deals you’ve been convinced you don’t want to miss. Though, retailers expect slower growth this shopping season due to inflation, higher borrowing costs and the resumption of student loan repayments.

So, what can you do to relieve some of this stress on yourself and your loved ones? We spoke to Crystal Lougin, a licensed therapist and director of behavioral health at Baptist Health-Fort Smith, about everything from gift-giving to giving up on “keeping up” with friends on social media. 

What are ways to alleviate stress when it comes to gift-giving?

You may think expensive gifts are the most worthy, but Lougin suggests the “Do-It-Yourself” approach can be a gift for both parties involved. 

“Instead of creating financial stress on yourself, consider homemade gifts like art, cookies or giving your time to help someone instead,” Lougin said. A hand-written personal card or letter that shares what the gift recipient means to the giver is a heart-felt way to share their feelings. Each year, I receive and look forward to an end-of-year” letter from a family friend in which they share a summary of their year with me and entails what they are grateful for.” 

The United Way of Fort Smith, like many charitable organizations across Arkansas, suggests working with nonprofits in your community to give back this holiday season. Many organizations are in need of both supplies and volunteers. Creating an experience such as shopping for a family in need or serving meals with your family, friends or coworkers will be more meaningful and memorable. Check with the United Way or local churches in your area for ideas to impact your community.

“You can engage your children and friends to participate in volunteer opportunities that allow you to give your time, skills and expertise instead of dealing with the stress of Christmas shopping,” Lougin said.

Everyone else seems to be having a great holiday, what am I doing wrong? 

We’ve likely all been guilty of scrolling through social media and looking at someone’s Christmas photos of families in matching family outfits in front of a perfectly decorated tree, or even more triggering, on a lavish trip. Our 26th U.S. president, Theodore Roosevelt, called comparison “the thief of joy” – and he’s not wrong. Comparing yourself to others can definitely diminish self-esteem and contribute to depression. It’s time to give it up, according to Lougin.

“When we are in this constant state of comparison we continue to strive for a life that isn’t ours to live, real or perceived,” Lougin said, “Our grandmothers would call this ‘trying to keep up with the Jones.’ This unhealthy behavior can lead to feelings of inadequacy and worry about not meeting perceived expectations.” 

How can we improve relaxation this holiday season?

We tend to overextend ourselves even more during the holiday season, but Lougin says a good place to start is by setting and sticking to healthy boundaries. You do not need to agree to attend or plan a holiday function.

“We try to please everyone because it gives us a sense of belonging and connection,” said Lougin.  

As with anything, relaxation can be taken one step at a time. Taking a few minutes to decompress is a very simple way to take care of yourself. Adding 10 minutes in the shower, going to bed on time or sleeping in when you can, eating a healthy balanced diet, finding something to laugh and smile about frequently, are all good tips, according to Lougin. 

The holiday season does not have to be a stressful time. Proper planning, healthy boundaries and realistic expectations are all necessary components to navigate the season. 

If you find yourself in need of someone to talk to about your holiday stress or anxiety, reach out to your local church pastor, primary care provider or visit our website to find comprehensive mental health services