You're not alone If worry, tension and anxiety occupy your thoughts this upcoming holiday season.
People in the United States are more likely to see stress levels increase during the holidays, according to the American Psychological Association.
These rising stress levels can be a direct result of the to-do list that comes along with this festive time of year. With office and school parties, endless wish lists and the pressure of creating perfect holiday meals, it’s no wonder so many view the season in a less-than positive light.
Unfortunately, stress can have many negative effects on your health and is connected to heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, you can make the holidays more enjoyable and less stressful — for you and your heart — with minimal effort.
Set realistic expectations
One of the best ways to decrease stress this holiday season is to set realistic expectations, according to Mayo Clinic. Your holiday celebrations don’t have to be perfect, so stop worrying about buying the perfect gift or setting a flawless table. Also, keep in mind that not every holiday has to outdo the previous year.
While traditions are a joyous part of any celebration, it’s OK to break them — or form new ones — this year. By establishing new traditions that align with your current financial situation or bandwidth, you are able to create new memories that do not require undue amounts of stress.
Create a budget, and stick to it
Last November, Match Financial found that 45 percent of Americans would prefer to skip Christmas altogether. When you consider the financial strain the season tends to place on American families, that statistic isn’t too surprising. Everything from holiday travel expenses to long wish lists full of the newest (and priciest) electronics and toys, your seasonal spending habits could be stressing you out.
This year, create a realistic budget and stick to it. When January arrives, you won’t be as stressed about finances if you followed your plan.
Learn to say no
The holiday season is all about giving, but committing yourself to too many events may create unnecessary stress. This year, don’t let yourself be pressured into saying yes to every request or invitation you receive. Be courteous, be polite, but also be aware and respectful of your limits.
In the even Hanukkah or Christmas dinner at your house usually ends up contentious rather than congenial, it’s no wonder the holiday stresses you out. If there are hard feelings between members of your family, work to remedy these prior to the moment everyone shows up in your dining room.
Forgiveness will help you “free yourself from burning more negative energy,” according to Mayo Clinic. Anger and resentment only increase your stress levels, so now is the time to make amends and move on.
Get some exercise
The thought of squeezing one more task or activity into your holiday calendar might seem unappealing, but squeezing in a workout can actually help you feel more relaxed and focused.
“Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever,” according to Mayo Clinic.
Whether walking the dog or powering through a workout video, exercise is bound to make you feel better.
Make a list
Sometimes, all it takes is a little organization to relieve stress. Planning ahead for the holiday season will help you do exactly that — and also help you set boundaries regarding your time and commitments. Start a family calendar to keep track of holiday parties and celebrations, and then create task and shopping lists for each.
Approaching the holidays with a documented game plan will make the season far less stressful. In fact, you might just find it enjoyable.
*For more tips on how to live a heart healthy life, visit mayoclinic.org.