It’s referred to as “the most wonderful time of the year” but the holiday season can bring with it a boatload of stress and anxiety. Wrapping up your end-of-the-year to-do list, shopping for everyone on your gift list (while trying not to bust your budget), coping with fewer hours of daylight and, of course, dealing with family members: All of this can be pretty anxiety-provoking. It’s easy not to feel so wonderful.
The good news is you’re not alone. Plenty, and we mean plenty of people get stressed-out and anxious around the holidays. The key is learning how to cope with these feelings and not let them get the best of you. Ahead, we’re sharing a few tips from New York City-based psychologist Dr. Sasha Izen that will help you relax and enjoy the holiday season. We’re not saying these will magically make your grandma stop asking why you’re single or add more hours to your day, but they may just help make all the chaos a little easier to deal with.
Check out your very own stress-busting cheat sheet ahead — and refer back as needed.
1. De-escalate. When family conflicts erupt, don’t add kindling to the fire. Find a way to disengage and de-escalate, rather than letting a minor tiff turn into a major blow-up. If you find yourself having an argument with a family member (it happens!), Izen says to “find the part of their point of view where you can see where he or she is coming from — and validate that part. It goes a long way in taking the fight out of someone.” People are much likely to be calm when they feel they’re being heard. You can avoid a lot of family drama just by remembering that simple tip.
2. Take a timeout. If you’re not able to curb a disagreement or you’re feeling overwhelmed, Izen suggests stepping away. “Take a break and do some mindfulness or breathing to calm down,” she says. Self care is essential year round, but especially around the holidays. “Make sure to take some time for something you enjoy,” she says. “Engage in some kind of self-care activity that helps you reclaim your time.”
3. Manage your expectations. “Be careful about expecting behavior from people they haven’t proven themselves capable of ever before,” cautions Izen. “If you don’t expect miracles, you won’t be so let down.” So whether your mom is famously critical or your brother is known for being flaky, don’t go into the holidays expecting them to be different — just remind yourself of the positives. “Find the things you do like or love and help your brain remember those,” Izen says. You’ll save your sanity if you accept your loved ones for who they are — and who they aren’t.
4. Remember not to isolate. Holiday stress can make it tempting to try and hibernate until January — but this can actually make things worse, according to Izen. “Loneliness is the biggest problem during the holidays. Seek out love and support — any source of support will work as long as it works for you, it doesn’t have to be family.”
How do you reduce stress during the holidays? Tell us in the comments!
Header image via @mykennajean