While the winter holidays and their traditions can certainly bring joy, comfort, and nostalgia, they also tend to cause stress and overwhelm. There’s the pressure of shopping for gifts, the busy social calendar, and more time spent with family – which for many people means confronting strained or complicated relationships.

Here are three ways to reduce your stress this holiday season:

Mindfully accept (or decline) invitations

Part of what can make the holidays stressful is the uptick in socializing that can leave us feeling drained. Here’s your permission slip: you don’t have to accept every invitation to every gathering over the holidays.

Some people are dealing with increased social anxiety after a long stretch of time with limited social contact. Even if you’re not anxious in social situations, your social stamina might not be as steadfast as it used to be, and you may notice yourself feeling more drained after socializing.

So take a moment to consider invitations when they come to you. Only commit to events you’re looking forward to. This will help you to preserve your much-needed energy over the holidays.

Nervous about turning down invitations? That’s understandable, but remember that it’s absolutely okay to do so. Here’s a tip: keep your response brief, and don’t feel the need to over-explain your reasoning. For example, you might say, “Thanks for thinking of me, but I will need to pass this time,” or “That sounds great, but I already have plans.”

Take care of yourself

The holidays are a busy time, and beyond that, the long list of demands might threaten to shake up your routine. Don’t make the mistake of sacrificing your own self-care when the days get busy and your to-do list long.

Drink plenty of water and eat nutritious foods. Make time to exercise. Leave time to wind down before bed, and try to stick to a regular sleep schedule as much as possible. By taking care of yourself in this way, you’re protecting yourself against burnout, and you’re also protecting yourself from building resentment toward others when you put their needs ahead of your own.

Expect family dynamics to remain the same

According to family systems theory, family dynamics are predictable, and the way you feel around your family is likely to be as well.

So if you tend to feel irritated around your family, expect to feel irritated around your family. When it comes time to visit with them, periodically check in with yourself. Are you feeling tense? Drained? Overwhelmed? Take opportunities to take breaks when you need them. Volunteer to run any needed errands. Take a walk or step outside for some fresh air and stillness. And remember to breathe.

Finally, don’t expect conflicts or old patterns to be resolved over the holidays. This can be a stressful time for families, and thus likely not the ideal time to try to work out long-standing issues. It’s not a personal failure if you can’t “fix” your family. Focus on taking care of yourself.





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