women experiencing holiday stress

Let’s be honest here: the holidays are stressful. 

Holiday expectations can create unrealistic goals. Coordinating even minor travel plans for our families can leave us feeling paper thin. Throw in financial concerns and this year’s global pandemic, and you’ve got a recipe for white knuckles and clenched jaws during what should be a season for cultivated joy.


Of course, stress is more than just a mood--it’s also a long list of physical ailments resulting from a heightened and sustained fight or flight response. Sleep loss, muscle pain, fatigue, and stomach discomfort are just a few common symptoms of stress. 


This year, after months of difficulties already, consider thinking differently about how you handle holiday tensions. We may not be able to control the season, but with these tips and tricks, we might just manage.


To Go or Not To Go

Far from simply calling our usual routines into question, 2020 has blown up the playbook altogether. The first and most pressing stressor this holiday season is deciding how you and your family will navigate the pandemic.


Even if you’re not in a position to decide what the rest of the family does, you can decide what you are personally comfortable with. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have their own recommendations about gathering for the holidays, but the decision is, ultimately,  yours alone.


Should you choose to gather with others, plan ahead for any small gatherings and make sure to discuss preventative measures with family and friends. If you decide to sit the holidays out this year, make other plans for a virtual gathering. 


In any case, agreeing to an uncomfortable holiday plan to avoid conflict will only create more stress.


Manage Expectations

In even an average year, creating the “perfect holiday” is an unrealistic goal. This year, the notion is outright laughable. 


If you’re able to conduct a small gathering safely, rejoice in your ability to do so. Try not to lament the differences between holidays past and present. You can only do so much against global forces, travel restrictions, common sense safety guidelines, and possibly the unreasonable expectations of others. 


From holiday meals and traditions to gift giving, socializing, and even home decor, it’s important that you understand your limits. Make peace with doing the best you can by congratulating yourself for trying at the end of one of the most challenging years in recent memory.


Plan Ahead

What passes for decent advice during any other holiday season makes twice as much sense this time around. Few aspects of the holidays remain untouched by the pandemic, so it’s vital that we account for delays, disruptions, and broken plans.


Throughout the last 10 months, global supply chains have suffered serious setbacks. Some products have remained absent from shelves for weeks at a time. Shopping online may be wise, but your order may take more time to arrive than usual. This also applies to the ingredients you might need for holiday meals.


Anticipation and  caution extend to travel plans especially. To reduce pandemic-related stress, you might carry extra masks or extra hand sanitizer. Take a moment before traveling to consider how health and safety guidelines might impact any back up arrangements you might be asked to make.


Take a Break

Your mental health is a personal priority. No one chooses to feel overwhelmed, but we can plan to manage that stress. 


Make sure to pack a book, game, electronic device or other recreational aid. This not only gives you something to look toward when feeling stressed, it might also help you avoid other, unhealthy pitfalls of the holiday season such as alcohol abuse, drug abuse, or other potentially harmful coping behaviors. 


We stress when we feel powerless, but by planning for stress itself, we restore a measure of control to our holiday season.


UAB Medical West wishes you a safe and stress-free holiday season!

Holiday seasons always have their ups and downs, but by planning ahead for certain predictable stressors, you can give yourself the best chance at relaxation and joy! For more tips about managing holiday anxiety, or to schedule an appointment before traveling, visit UAB Medical West. Serving Hueytown, Hoover, Bessemer, McCalla, and Vance, UAB Medical West is here for you this holiday season!