Navigating the Festive Season: A Mindful Guide

to Overcoming Holiday Stress

Are you stressed during the Christmas holidays? The festive season can bring more stress, anxiety, and fatigue, even though it’s supposed to be a time for joyful gatherings and heart-warming moments. I have mixed feelings about this time of year. As the big day gets closer, I feel nostalgic, I love visiting the Christmas markets and looking for mince pies and mulled wine. But it’s also the one time of the year when I really miss my birth home.

I think there is too much pressure to have a good time during Christmas. Many people struggle with the pressure to create the perfect Christmas.

In this blog post, I will share five tips for a less stressful holiday season. These tips will help you stay calm and present. First, let’s talk about the top 5 causes of holiday stress. I’m sure you will relate to at least one of them.

1.  Perfectionism.

The pressure to create a flawless Christmas holiday experience! For your guests to have the perfect day. The perfect decorated tree, Christmas lunch cooked and planned to perfection. The gifts you searched for and wrapped in colourful paper are received with the same gratitude and joy you hoped.

Trying to be perfect will make you more stressed. The pressure to meet society’s or your family’s standards, as well as your own expectations, can take away from the true meaning of this time of year. I encourage you to consider the idea of accepting imperfections. Remember that the real magic of the season comes from being genuine, not from being perfect.

2.  Family and Relationship Dynamics.

I don’t know who’s more guilty, society or us, for portraying the festive season as a time of family and social bliss. The reality for many involves navigating complex family dynamics or steering social events.

During this time of year, tensions in relationships often become more noticeable or old conflicts resurface. Family members have a way of knowing how to upset each other; there’s always someone who enjoys asking uncomfortable questions!

I mentioned in the opening of this article that I have mixed feelings about the festive season. On one hand, I love the twinkling lights and the romance of it all. On the other hand, it reminds me of my traumas from past Christmases.

When it comes to family gatherings, it’s important to acknowledge that not all family situations are perfect. Later in this article, we will discuss the importance of setting healthy boundaries.

3.   Financial Strain.

This is a very real problem; we are amid a global financial crisis. Families feel the daily pressure of keeping a roof over their heads, feeding their family, and keeping warm. Without the added pressure of gift-giving, decorating, or additional social gatherings. Consumerism has gone mad, fuelled by societal pressures of excessive spending all adding to the stress. The winners here are the credit card companies.

4.   People Pleasing.

Sound familiar? The urge to please everyone during the festive season can be both stressful and emotionally draining As somebody who’s introverted and quite sensitive, without my boundaries I can easily absorb a lot of other people’s stress.  I am also a master at Christmas people pleasing! My brother and I spent many Christmases splitting our time between Mum and Dad. This fear of disappointing others or not meeting expectations adds an extra layer of stress.

Then there’s the pressure to give gifts or navigating social gatherings and commitments can be challenging, especially for those with social anxiety.

mindful festive season
5.   Facing the holidays alone.

I’ve spent a couple of Christmases alone, and it wasn’t fun. We all cope at this time of year differently, some with excitement, some with optimism, and some with dread.  The societal emphasis on togetherness during this season can be a poignant reminder of one’s solitude. Sometimes this is out of choice, maybe you live away from family and friends, or you simply prefer to spend the holidays alone. But those spending the holidays without close family or friends, feelings of loneliness and isolation can intensify.

5 Tips for Managing Holiday Stress:

During the busy holiday preparations, you can use these 5 simple tips to have a balanced and peaceful festive season.

1.   Respond with kindness.

The holiday season is a time when emotions can run high. It’s important to recognise that we all have very different coping mechanisms and ways to manage our emotions, everyone is dealing with their own pressures.

Practice forgiveness, being able to let go of grudges and resentments makes for a peaceful and less stressful time. Showing compassion for each other and through supportive communication allows you to listen with sincerity, empathy, and kindness.

Remember to extend this generosity to yourself. Know that it’s okay not to have everything under control, in fact; embrace the beauty of imperfection.

overcoming holiday stress
2.   Prioritise and Set Boundaries.

Healthy boundaries often get a bad rap, being perceived as selfish, when, in fact they are the best self-care practice especially at this time of the year when the pressure to do more than you can handle increases tenfold. My advice? Put any necessary boundaries in place and STAND BY THEM.

Set realistic boundaries to protect your time and energy. It is okay to say no to requests that you don’t have time for, or you know will be overwhelming. Recognise you cannot do it all. It’s also okay to say no to social gatherings. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for your decision, politely decline commitments that may tip your balance, opting for quality over quantity! Your needs are important too.

Communicate your needs. Let others know what you can and cannot handle. This will help them to plan accordingly and avoid overwhelming you.

Make life easier for yourself, instead of making a dessert, buy one or delegate. Ask one of your guests to bring dessert. Don’t be afraid of asking for help from others.

3.  Practice Acceptance.

Acceptance becomes a powerful tool in diffusing stressful situations or when you encounter unexpected challenges. Not everything will go as planned and that’s okay. Let go of the need for things to be perfect or the need to control situations. Be flexible. Be prepared to adapt your plans if things don’t go as expected. Embrace the imperfections; these may turn out to become cherished memories!

4. Make self-care a priority.

Amidst all the hustle and bustle, don’t let self-care slip away. Prioritise sleep and make time for activities that will help you to relax and recharge, whether it’s a quiet moment with a book, or a walk-in nature.

If you are someone who finds this time of year difficult, be gentle, generous, and patient with yourself. Recognise when you need to take a break or remove yourself from any stressful situation or social gathering. Even if it’s only for a moment to take a breath and get some fresh air. A walk can work wonders, it does for me!

Consider what you need, especially regarding boundaries. It’s okay to ask for help; it’s okay to say no. Prioritise what’s best for you, perhaps there’s something you can let go of to ease the pressure. Give yourself permission to take an emotional time if you need it. Remember, your needs are important too.

5. Create meaningful traditions.

Traditions are the heart and soul of the festive season. They provide a sense of continuity, comfort, and belonging, and they help to create lasting memories. I still remember being with my Nana, posting my letter to Santa Claus.

Since I’ve been living here in Catalonia I’ve made friends with people from different parts of the world, all who have their own way of celebrating this special time. It’s so nice to learn about different traditions, some a little wackier than others! I’ve embraced Tió de Nadal, the importance of the Kings on January 6th, the festive food, while still ensuring there’s plenty of roast potatoes on our table!

Remember, you don’t have to follow the crowd; how nice it is to create your own meaningful and sustainable traditions! The best traditions are those that everyone can participate in; adapt this holiday time to meet your needs.

I hope these tips help you to navigate the festive season with balance and peace. Remember to be kind to yourself and others, approach the season mindfully embracing acceptance, express gratitude and remember why it you want to spend time with your loved ones.

If you enjoyed reading this article, you may also like to read…

How to set Boundaries and Protect your Energy.

Navigating Stressful Moments; Embrace the Mindfulness STOP Technique.

A Guide to Setting Self-Care Boundaries

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