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While some people relish in the sights and sounds of the holiday season, others find the month of December to be a constant source of stress. Although it may be a time that promotes togetherness and goodwill, between work, home life, shopping for gifts, decorating the house, playing host to family and friends and an ongoing pandemic, it's no surprise that many of us feel easily overwhelmed heading into Christmas.
According to a recent survey, 53 per cent of Canadians say they're experiencing more emotional stress about the upcoming holiday season than previous years, while 41 per cent say they feel more financial strain that ever before.
With so many of us feeling anxious, Aaryn Secker, director of education and training at the British Columbia division of the Canadian Mental Health Association, says it's important to take time to refocus on what's actually important.
“One of the key pieces is to make sure we get in touch with our values and what the holiday season means to us, what’s important for us during the holidays," Secker tells Yahoo Canada. "In doing that that can help us to manage our expectations,”
Here are a few tips to keep in mind as we gear up for another holiday season.
Although many people feel overwhelmed looking at the list of things to-do before the holidays, leaving everything to the last minute can be a recipe for stress.
Sending out your Christmas cards early or getting a head start on your baking, holiday shopping and gift wrapping can help make the days leading up to the holidays feel less stressful.
Stick to a budget
The holidays can be particularly stressful financially. Setting a budget for each person on your holiday shopping list or ask for a cap on gifts with family and friends can help take the pressure off overspending.
Limiting presents to just children in the family or opting to make gifts for family and friends can help keep you on budget this year. Get those DIY juices flowing and make your own holiday cards or create a box of homemade treats for loved ones to enjoy.
Moderate your sugar and alcohol intake
Holiday parties present ample opportunity to indulge in alcohol and delicious and festive sugary treats. Although it may seem like fun in the process, over-doing it on sugar and alcohol can cause unnecessary stress and guilt. Conversely, you might be tempted to over-indulge in alcohol as a means to cope with the stresses of the holiday season.
“Have some accountability with a friend or a family member around your alcohol consumption, telling somebody what your plan is so they can help support you and encourage you,” Secker suggested. “We also want to enjoy ourselves. If we are indulging more than we planned, have some compassion, and understand that’s very normal during this time and we have the rest of the next year to get back on track.”
Maintain your routine
All of this running around to get everything done on your to-do list can get you putting that daily routine on the back-burner. Keep in mind that routines are a good thing. Maintaining your daily structure can help keep you sane through this joyous season.
Go outside — and remember to exercise
This time of year can leave us feeling down. With the shorter and darker days, many people are affected by seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
Getting outside and walking or exercising can make you feel better and more energized to tackle those holiday-related chores. Remember to keep your overall health at the top of any list.
It’s OK to say no
Before you start inviting friends and family over and accepting all of those party invitations, set some boundaries and understand it’s OK to say no.
We give ourselves high expectations because 'tis the season to celebrate. Keep in mind that sometimes it’s better to decline an invitation than to try and attend every single one.
Ask for help
When it comes to hosting and organizing events, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Cooking for a group of people is a lot of work and can be both expensive and stressful. It will still be just as fun if everyone chips in and helps with set-up and bringing a dish or two.
“Be aware of what those stressors often are for us and then to try and make those plans ahead of time so that way we can enjoy what is in important to us and not be caught up necessarily in other people’s expectations,” Secker added.
Holidays during a pandemic
We’re entering into another Christmas season with COVID restrictions in place at most, if not all, establishments. Even if you’re organizing an event at your own home or going to someone else place for holiday festivities, you may want to check what protocols are in place to ensure there’s no tension at the actual gathering.
This could mean asking if wearing a mask is required during or visit or inquiring whether everyone in attendance is fully vaccinated.
“Communicating what you’re comfortable with and what you expect from any family or friends who might be visiting in advance so that no one is surprised,” Secker said. “You have time to work through any challenges that might arise out of that.”
Maintain a level of self-care
Aside from planning, socializing and hosting, don’t forget to take a breather and take care of you. Schedule some alone time and do what you enjoy, like reading a book, taking a bubble bath or watching your favourite holiday movie.
Enjoy the holidays
Ultimately, the holiday season is about spending time with the people you love.
“Reach out to those who are alone or that maybe you can’t connect with, maybe it’s due to the pandemic or any other circumstance,” Secker said. “Remember that if you can’t visit in-person, maybe you can still schedule a call or a video chat or even just sending a thoughtful card in the mail.”
Although it takes a lot of time and effort to put it all together, don’t forget to take a step back and appreciate the special moments made over the holidays that you’ll cherish for years to come.