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How to cope with holiday stress

Although coined as “the most wonderful time of the year,” the holidays can quickly become the most stressful time of the year due to the increase in social obligations, expectations, and financial responsibilities. 

 

With the excess celebrations, parties, house guests and traditions during this season, the holidays can heighten emotions. For some, this time of year is filled with fun and joy, and for others, it’s a period of anxiety fed by loneliness, overwhelm, and financial stress.

 

A study by the Canadian Psychological Association reported that stress can often result from having too many unrealistic expectations around the holiday season. Expectations around how the holiday party you’re hosting will pan out, who will participate in the family traditions, and how many gifts you should purchase your friends can feel both overwhelming and daunting. Pair these factors with the financial strain the holidays can induce and it’s no wonder that so many people have increased feelings of stress at this time of the year. Studies by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that women especially experience heightened stress during the holidays, affecting over half of the women in the United States alone.

 

With research indicating how finances are a leading cause of stress during the holidays, this factor is inevitably amplified due to the fact that each year, the average Canadian spends nearly $2,000 on Christmas. A recent study reported that our holiday spending continues to increase; with rising wages, people feel they’re expected to spend more. Plus, living in a society where we’re inundated with advertisements and messaging that places emphasis on the gift-giving aspect of the holidays increases expectations around how much you should be spending, which adds more financial strain. 

 

While many people turn to alcohol and unhealthy food to cope with the demands of the holiday season, it’s important to create healthy practices to stay grounded. This year, enter the season feeling clear and in-tune with yourself so you can fully enjoy what the holidays have to offer. Here’s how:

Pace yourself

 

 

As the holidays near, your social calendar likely gets busier and busier. While it can be tempting to commit to every Christmas function and family gathering, try not to over-book yourself. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, having too many plans is linked to causing stress on the liver, which is the body’s main detoxifying organ. When the liver is stressed, it can affect digestive health, increase fatigue, and even cause mood swings, such as irritability, depression and anger. Over-committing can also limit the amount of rest you get, and when you don’t get enough rest, the body is more likely to remain in the fight-or-flight mode of the nervous system due to excess stress hormones. When the next holiday party invite comes into your inbox, take a moment to check in with how you feel. Ask yourself: Have I had enough rest this week? Do I have enough down time? Am I taking care of myself? Pausing before committing allows you to feel what your body needs and make decisions that are aligned with your health goals. Pacing yourself during the holidays encourages you to practice self-care and self-awareness, helping you to show up as your best self when you do socialize.

Create (and stick to) a budget

 

 

To mitigate the financial burden often caused by the holidays, create a budget for the season and commit to staying within your means. This doesn’t mean you can’t participate in the festivities, but it may mean you need to get creative. Perhaps you have potluck-style dinners rather than taking on the responsibility for all of the cooking, or introduce a gift budget to your family so that you’re all on the same page. 

Incorporate cannabis into your wellness routine

 

 

You’ve likely heard about the stress-reducing benefits of cannabis. Its main compounds, THC and CBD, help to create a calming effect in the body due to a number of factors. THC interacts with the neurotransmitter anandamide, which can increase feelings of happiness and reduce stress. CBD also helps to reduce stress since it binds to serotonin receptors that work to calm the nervous system and restore balance. It can also help to regulate the body’s systems and boost neural regeneration, which can help in coping with intense emotions that may arise during the holidays. Encourage your friends and family to create grounding self-care practices using cannabis this holiday season by purchasing affordable pre-rolled joints, stress-reducing infused oils, or accessories for their favourite strains when they become a medical cannabis patient.

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