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Holiday Stress: 4 Ways to Find Meaning in the Holiday Madness

Confused woman in santa costume with a stack of christmas gifts

’Tis the season. A time for enchanting, twinkling lights, deep evergreens, family recipes and time spent with loved ones with hearts all aglow. It is also the overwhelming season of demands, from long lists of gift expectations, dizzying social and entertaining schedules, sleepless campaigns for perfect holiday appearances, the list goes on. How can one ever meet the gold-plated expectations of the holiday ideals romanticized in stories of old and new alike?

If you’re part of 75% of the general population, you don’t.

Instead, you suffer some degree of anxiety, stress, and depression trying to survive the most wonderful time of year. Holiday stress runs rampant in the United States, largely impacting women (69%), but not withstanding men (55%).

Holiday stress can be isolating and depressing. Compromising your mental, physical, and spiritual health for unattainable ideals is enough to make one lose hope and a little sanity. If you suffer from any degree of holiday-induced stress, you are not alone and there is a way out of the materialistic madness of what is supposed to be a time of charity, joy, and love. Below are four ways to dissipate stress and infuse meaning back into the holiday season.

Shift Your Perspective

In a study published in 2015 by the American Psychological Association, researchers found the leading cause of holiday stress was a lack of time. All too often, people find themselves on a slippery slope of severe expectations and self-imposed obligations during the holiday season. Consequently, “tunnel vision” can occur and soon your merriment is replaced with overwhelming anxiety and the frantic pressure of gift-giving, socializing, cleaning, cooking, hosting, and the like.

All good things in moderation. If you find yourself overwhelmed and anxious, try taking a step back and shifting your perspective inward to one of peace and honesty. Politely decline social invitations that add strain. Narrow your shopping list within reasonable confines. Turn off the news feed of staged perfectionism. Keep hosting responsibilities minimal and delegate when possible. Take time to rest. Above all, assess your values and reformat your holiday ideal to give your values space to thrive and set the stage for a fulfilling holiday.

Focus on Your Values

If the religious, social, or sentimental connotations of the holidays trigger negative emotions within you, combat it by stripping away the generalized holiday culture and make the holidays a celebration of what’s important to you. What, in your life, are you thankful for? Who are you thankful for?

By focusing on gratitude, you can shape a unique holiday experience that honors what your heart holds dearest. When you choose to cultivate gratitude, stress and anxiety have the opportunity to dissipate. For instance, if you’re thankful for the neighbor that always lends a helping hand, write them a letter of recognition. A simple gesture, but one that simultaneously brings deep joy to your neighbor and yourself. You chose to manifest gratitude for who you value, making for a long-lasting, rewarding experience during the holidays. When you choose to celebrate what’s important to you, it is easier to release the obligations that are unnecessary and stress-inducing to your holiday experience.

Encourage Mindfulness over Materialism

Not surprisingly, the second and third leading causes for holiday stress were a lack of money (62%) and commercialism (53%). Brands, now more than ever, have infiltrated the lives of consumers through social media, marketing experiences, and subversive brand relations. The holiday season severely amplifies these advertising platforms, feeding a constant stream of inadequacy and buying pressure in most your daily life.

You can shut down the stress of consumerism by directing your energy elsewhere. While giving gifts can be highly-rewarding, it is also important to remember that moments are known to be treasured far beyond things in the grand scheme of life. Instead of fueling anticipation towards the exchange of gifts, foster excitement towards meaningful, memory-making experiences. Have a cookie-decorating bake-off, massive party game tournament, holiday light hunt, a music-filled day trip, and so on. Direct your energy towards whatever experience cultivates feelings of joy and you will be giving a gift that lasts a lifetime.

Cultivate Your Joy

Lastly, it’s important to focus on amplifying your joy. The holiday season derives its magical sentiment from a collective people focusing on the good, the special, and manifesting their joy to others. A warm countenance, a friendly greeting, a thoughtful gesture, require you to focus on lifting others up. The beauty of giving is that we receive. Stress, worry, and depressive emotions find little ground when you make room for the happiness of others, for joy mirrors joy. Try to remove yourself from the holiday rat-race of fabricated appearances and the exploitation of giving. Simply find your joy, give your joy to others, and the magic of the holidays will shine brightly within and around you.