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Maintaining Holiday Cheer

The holiday season is filled with the happiness of getting together with family, celebrating the holidays, and getting a new start once the clock hits midnight at the end of the year! For some people, this is the best time of the year. For many people though, this is single-handedly the most stressful time of the year.

Holiday stress is not a new phenomenon. Even through researching for this blog post, I found articles from 2006 that address holiday stress by name. So, why is it so common?

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), for about 89% of American adults, holiday stress is caused by financial limitations, missing relatives, and family conflict. In the same study, 43% of participants said that the holiday stress stops them from enjoying the holidays. In a season meant to be filled with happiness, the prevailing stress seems to damp any hope of that.

However, how can you blame people for being stressed during this time period?

The average American is projected to spend $875 on the winter holidays. For many people, that number is nearly the cost of their rent, and typically, many people feel pressured to give people the same amount of money back on gifts.

In addition to the amount of money spent on gifts, many people have to travel to see their family during this season of togetherness. While the price of flights has decreased since last year, the average domestic flight is $324. However, this is only regarding domestic flights, so many Americans who want to fly internationally will have to incur an even greater cost in addition to their anticipated gift budget.

However, financial limitations may not be the only issue regarding family during the holidays. Many people associate this time with family conflict. It is so common that multiple social media platforms were flooded with memes depicting fighting with their relatives at Thanksgiving. Any family is susceptible to family conflict, but the holidays seem to exacerbate this conflict. Many family therapists stated that some of the biggest issues during the holidays are unattainable expectations, hectic schedules, strained relationships, uncomfortable conversations, and political discourse.

All of these issues are legitimate and normal causes of holiday stress.

While there is no viable way to eliminate these issues, there are ways to alleviate this stress to ensure you are partaking in the joy of holiday cheer this season.

1. Plan How You’ll Spend

Worried about how much you will spend during the holidays? Make a spending plan!

Making a spending plan is a way to make sure you understand how much you are spending on gifts, travel, etc.

Your plan does not have to be super fancy. You do not need a high-tech Excel sheet that calculates your spending this season (unless that’s what you want!).

It can be as simple as sitting down to look at your bank account and determining how much money you are willing to spend this season. From there, you can determine how much money you’re willing to spend on each person’s gift. That limit will change depending on who the person is.

For example, the amount of money you’ll be willing to spend on your favorite relative’s gift will probably be more than the amount you dedicate to your coworker’s white elephant gift. You will probably spend about $20-$30 on a gift for your relative, whereas your spending limit for your coworker may be $10-$20.

As a deal-seeker, a tool I have found useful throughout the years is an influencer’s favorite sponsor: Honey. Honey is a free Chrome extension app that looks for coupon codes whenever you spend online.

How it works: If the website has a coupon code, the Honey logo will light up to indicate a potential deal. Once you move to online check-out, a pop-up window will come to ask if you would like to apply coupon codes, and it will try every coupon to get you the lowest total possible.

Unfortunately, Honey does not work for every website or guarantee that you will get a discount. However, it does provide the possibility of getting a reduced price you would have never gotten normally. As an avid Honey user, I have saved much money in online spending regardless of the time of the year!

2. Set Time Aside for Family

Worried about missing your family during the holidays? Work together to spend time!

Spending time in person with family may be expensive due to distance, but thankfully, we live in an age where you can meet up with friends, family, or even coworkers online. However, if you are looking for some low-budget things to do with nearby family members, you could always arrange a game night, movie night, or sleepover!

If you can not come home for the holidays, make sure your family members know that. Nothing is more disappointing than finding out at the last minute that you won’t be able to come. Being transparent during this time is crucial.

Once you have established that you can not make it there, the next step is to figure out how you can be there for each other virtually. Decide on a day, a time, and a mode of communication.

This tip is especially important if you live in a different country from your family members. Time zones can mess anyone up, and it’s important to come up with a time that works for both of you.

For example, half of my family lives in the Philippines, which is 16 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time. Therefore, if I try to call them at noon, it is going to be 4 in the morning, and no one wants to wake up at 4 AM.

In my personal experience, even the shortest of phone calls to my international family members has brought a lot of happiness to both parties. In a time where we can not physically be together without spending $10,000 on a flight, talking to each other virtually has been essential to keeping in touch.

3. Find Your Support System

Worried about fighting with your family during the holidays? Remember your support system!

A support system is a group of people who support you unconditionally. While this might be a social operation, having a strong support system has great benefits. People with a solid support system have longer lives, better health, and higher well-being.

When you are in a position where being with your family causes discomfort, a strong support system can help ground yourself. You can vent to them or ask for advice on how to approach it. They make sure that you never feel alone or overwhelmed by yourself.

Make sure you let your support system know about this potentially stressful situation! They are there to help you when you need it the most. As long as you let them beforehand, they will be more equipped to hear you out and understand where you are coming from.

Also, if there’s a certain family member in your support system (you know at least one), you can opt to stay by them the entire time. Additionally, if you do not tend to get along with a family member, chances are that your favored family member can interact with them on your behalf.

Favored family members are in a unique position where they can interact with the same relatives as you, and they probably also know the little things that make those relatives tick. They are also experiencing the same holiday situation you are in, so they are some of the most knowledgeable about what may cause you the most stress.

As someone who has done this on more than one occasion, staying with my cousin during a family function has allowed me to get through the day with reduced stress. It is also fun knowing you’ll have a partner for when they spontaneously ask to take a family photo.

While none of these solutions can fully dissolve the holiday stress, it’s important to do what you can to make that stress not interfere with your enjoyment of the season. Stress is simply that annoying little cousin who does not seem to want to go home.

However, like most annoyances, it is just that: an annoyance. It is not meant to ruin or disturb all of your plans. It is not meant to completely impede your enjoyment. It is just something that comes along when you invite the holiday spirit into your home. You will get past the annoyance to find the pure joy that is the holiday season.

This season is the happiest time of the year. Make sure you get to enjoy it this year!

About the Author

Kahleia is in her junior year at UNLV, and currently majoring in History! She hopes to go into Public History post-graduation to help make history understandable and digestible for the general public. At school, she is part of the Dean’s Student Advisory Council (DSAC) for the College of Liberal Arts (COLA) which is a student-led organization that works to act as the voice for COLA undergraduate students. Also, for the last 5 years, she has been working at the Discovery Children’s Museum in a variety of positions, especially in their Birthdays department. She has had a passion for writing since she was in elementary school, and she was involved in journalism in elementary school and high school where she was the Editor-in-Chief!

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