While the holidays bring families together to enjoy each other, they also can bring soaring credit card debt, extra pounds and sometimes heated family arguments.
In terms of debt, Americans spend $680 billion during the holidays according to the National Retail Federation with online spending increasing 12 percent annually. The average person spends just under $1,200 over the holidays including food, gifts and travel. At least 23% of this is charged to a credit card, with over 6 million people borrowing to pay for Christmas each year. One third of bankruptcies filed in March is caused by overspending at Christmas.
According to Healthline, the holiday season is also prime time for stress and even depression because of the expectations we place on ourselves and family. For many people, what should be a joyous time is actually a time filled with sadness, self-reflection, loneliness and anxiety.
According to experts, you can change the dynamics with some simple tips.
“You are the one who creates your own reality,” Dr. Judy Kuriansky, a world-renowned clinical psychologist tells Newsmax. “Find the joy in simple things and focus on what is, rather than on false expectation and you will have the happiest holiday ever.”
Here are some suggestions from Kuriansky and the American Psychological Association on how to beat holiday stress:
- Take time for yourself. There may be pressure to be everything to everyone but remember that you are only one person and can only accomplish certain things. Sometimes that means taking care of yourself, says Kuriansky. Take a long walk, get a massage or simply put your feet up and listen to fine music. If you have a regular exercise routine, don’t give it up! All of us need time to recharge our batteries, and by slowing down, you’ll actually have more energy to accomplish your goals.
- Set realistic expectations. No holiday celebration is perfect. Look at the inevitable mistakes or mishaps as opportunities to demonstrate resilience and flexibility. A lopsided tree or burned brisket won’t ruin your holiday. In fact, we often look back at these experiences with a smile or a chuckle. Learn to let go of perfectionism because it does not exist.
- Volunteer. There a few better ways to truly appreciate what you’ve got than being of service. You can “adopt” a less fortunate family and make their holiday shine. You can wrap gifts for foster children, serve at a soup kitchen, or participate in a giving tree celebration that benefits communities at large. Two things will happen: by helping those in true poverty your own economic struggles will fall into perspective and your holiday will be happier because you’ve warmed someone’s heart.
- Remember what’s important. The barrage of holiday advertising can make us forget what the holiday season is really about. When your holiday expense list is running longer than your monthly budget, scale back and remind yourself that what makes a great celebration is family, not store-bought presents, elaborate decorations or gourmet food.
- Seek support. Talk about your feelings of anxiety with friends and family. Getting things out in the open can help you navigate through the holiday season with less resentment and anger. In addition, being honest with your loved ones can help find a solution for your stress. If you continue to feel overwhelmed, consider seeking a professional to help you manage your holiday stress.
- Delegate. If you’ve having guests at your house, assign each visitor a dish to bring even if it’s a store-bought pie. Plan the menu and divvy up the cooking so that you still have the traditional dinner without the stress and hassle of doing it all yourself. You can also invite family members to join you in the kitchen to prepare the holiday dinner as they do in many parts of Europe. Or, if the spirit moves you, order in Chinese food or pizza!
- Limit alcoholic beverages. Setting up a full bar is costly. You may want to offer wine and beer or a spiked fruit punch for adults. Cutting back on booze also can help stave off family feuds, say experts.
- Get outdoors! Go skating or tobogganing to burn off the calories and release some of the pent-up stress and energy.