Festive Stress: Understanding & Managing It

The end-of-year celebrations always come with high expectations, as we want everything to be perfect: the gifts, the family dinner, the decorations, the outfits we choose to wear… However, the urge for perfection is sometimes hard to fulfil and can quickly become a source of stress and worry, making it hard to enjoy the 'most magical' time of the year.

Sarah Korba
Dec 22, 2022
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Have you ever felt exhausted from preparations for the holiday season? 

Have you ever pretended to be excited about a festive family gathering, but deep inside, you wished for it to end?

Have you ever felt disappointed for not being able to choose a nice gift for a loved one?

You are not alone if you answered yes to any of these questions!

The holiday season is meant to be a time of joy, relaxation, and celebration, but for many of us, it can also be a time of anxiety and stress. The end-of-year celebrations always come with high expectations, as we want everything to be perfect: the gifts, the family dinner, the decorations, the outfits we choose to wear… However, the urge for perfection is sometimes hard to fulfil and can quickly become a source of stress and worry, making it hard to enjoy the ‘most magical’ time of the year. So, how can we overcome stress and exhaustion during this period? In this article, we will share with you the leading causes and symptoms of festive stress and, better yet, some tips to help you deal with it!

Top causes of festive stress

Many factors can dampen the holiday spirit, including:

  • Time and finances: the food and gift expenses, as well as the time we spend preparing for family dinners or trying to find the perfect presents, can make the festive season an extremely stressful time
  • Isolation: some people feel alone during the holiday season for multiple reasons, such as relocation to a new city far from family members and friends, separation, or grief. The emphasis on spending quality time with family and friends during the holiday season may intensify feelings of sadness or loneliness
  • Family tensions: when it comes to the holiday season, we all have the image of perfect, happy families enjoying a feast around the table and exchanging luxurious gifts. However, this expectation is only sometimes realistic since all families experience some tension at one point or another during this period. Family members may feel under pressure as they try to juggle obligations in their busy schedule or may not always feel happy to stick to their families’ holiday traditions
  • Reflecting on the past year: the end of a year is when people often feel unsatisfied with their accomplishments over the past year. Some people may feel like they ‘failed’ or ‘lost another year’ of their lives

Common festive stress reactions

The sources of stress that we listed above can cause physical and mental symptoms, as well as unhealthy coping mechanisms that are not always easy to recognise, and may sometimes require you to seek professional help. Here are some warning signs to look out for when it comes to festive stress:

Physical symptoms: headaches and muscle aches, gastrointestinal problems, dizziness, high blood pressure, difficulty breathing

Mental and behavioural symptoms: fatigue, mood swings, impaired memory, inability to concentrate, difficulty sleeping, increased cigarette or alcohol consumption, changes in appetite, losing interest in holiday activities

Tips for managing festive stress in a healthy way

Luckily, managing stress during the festive period is something that can be achieved through the following steps:

1. Organise your holiday spending

Holiday finances can get out of control very quickly! To reduce financial stress, make a list in advance of all your holiday expenses (gifts, food, activities, clothes, etc.). While trying to be as specific as possible, set a budget for the list and stick to it. You can also set a hard limit on the amount of credit you will use on your credit card and find low-cost activities with your family and friends that will reduce your spending, such as setting up a low-budget ‘Secret Santa’ or buying gifts only for children. 

2. Overcome loneliness

If you struggle with feelings of isolation or grief during the holiday season, there are many ways to help you overcome loneliness. Living abroad allows you to connect with other people with similar interests by volunteering or attending community events. You can also plan how you will spend your day to avoid feeling depressed or stressed: buy yourself a gift that you want or book an activity you enjoy and treat yourself! 

If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, try to acknowledge your feelings instead of suppressing them. Remember that all emotions can coexist: for instance, you can miss someone and enjoy the holiday simultaneously.

3. Set realistic expectations

Expectations can cause a lot of stress. Avoid overcommitting to someone or something. Failing to fulfil your commitments can increase irritability and lower your energy levels. Also, try to steer clear of social media perfection: social media can add pressure to achieving a perfect holiday celebration. Avoid comparing yourself to others and remember, not everything you see is true. Real life is much more complicated!

4. Practise self-compassion

Practising self-compassion is a great way to take care of your well-being and reduce holiday stress’s impact. If you are feeling down during the festive season, try to list all the positive things you did or experienced during the previous months, and remind yourself that the combination of other holiday-related factors, such as the pressure of holiday shopping or family expectations, may influence your negative feelings. 

Find relaxation using the Kyan Health app

In the Kyan Health app, you can find short guided meditations designed to help you relieve stress and experience a sense of physical and emotional relaxation. Feeling stressed? Head over to the Self-Care section of our app and try an ‘SOS Stress’ or ‘SOS Relaxation’ Meditation in the language of your choice. It will make you feel better in just a few minutes. If you feel like you need more help, our Kyan counsellors are here to support you in overcoming stress or any challenge you may face in your well-being journey.

Interested in learning more about how to promote employee well-being in your organisation? Book a demo or visit www.kyanhealth.com to learn more about our Kyan solutions.

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