*This week we are welcoming psychologist Alicja from Just Redefine*

Turkey, eggnog, decorations and ornaments, parties and gifts, songs and all the wishes. Yes, the winter holiday season is here! We’ll sing “All is calm, all is bright”, but are you really calm? Take a moment and think about it. Did your head start spinning? Are you stressed about upcoming holidays? You are not alone!

Are you alone in the space?

American Psychological Association does surveys repeatedly and they found out that “lack of money is one of the top cause of the holiday stress followed by the pressures of gift giving, lack of time, and credit card debt”. In 2004 it was 61% of Americans who admitted the fact, in 2009 the number raised to 71%.

When you are in financial troubles you are stressed. Big discovery, huh? Stress is the natural reaction of your body. The whole concept of stress has a very bad reputation, but the truth is that feeling is probably the reason humankind still exists. Have you heard about fight or flight reaction? To make it simple: stress is what causes your body to quickly respond to the potentially dangerous situation you are in.

Remember that feeling when you walked to pick up your child from school and you saw PTO lady looking for volunteers? Yeah, that tonicity, sweat on your palms, spasm of a jaw muscle, the only one thought in your mind: run and hide. That how it works.

Of course, we are reasonable human beings and we should consciously decide how we react. In our example you don’t hide in the bushes until PTO lady goes away, do you? Of course, you don’t, we are all civilized people. You pick up the pace and look away, waving at a stranger! I’m joking. The thing is that you may redefine how you see stress.

So how to deal with stress?

Preferably: just don’t. In the perfect world, you should avoid it, reduce it to a minimum or eliminate it. How to do it? I’ll get to that in conclusion. Why read the whole text then? Because we don’t live in the perfect world. We are in constant stress, holidays only intensify it. In result your health is in danger, your relationships are in danger, honestly – your life is on a line here.

To get more specific, because let’s not forget we’re talking money here, please remember there is no shame in talking about financial issues. Especially, when we’re talking about repairing our situation! I’m not saying it’s easy emotionally, I’m saying it’s admirable.

The worst you could do is to pretend nothing is going on. If you don’t acknowledge your financial situation most likely your debt will only get bigger during the season and so is your anxiety.

Time to take control

Let’s stop any emotional shaming yourself or blaming others. Just sit down, analyze the situation you are in and prepare a plan of action. Very detailed plan. Take everything under consideration. Try to remember what you did last year and how effective that was. Be proactive. You must be prepared for all the stressors that are waiting and have already prepared response. Take decisive actions.

You know that your friend with five children will invite you to Christmas party and will expect you to have fancy presents for all of the chubby cherubim? Not in your budget this year? Buy five chocolates, visit your friend before she invites you and tell her all about your December’s plans and how sorry you are that you’ll miss her annual party this time. And that leads us to number two:

Be assertive

There are lots of expectations around the vision of perfect celebrations. Those expectations are usually quite expensive. To avoid financial missteps, you need to prepare a realistic budget, based on realistic goals. You need to be assertive, selective and learn how to say “no”. Easier said than done, right? Ask your spouse for help, ask anybody close to you. Not for a loan, but for help in planning, in all holiday tasks. You don’t want to be overwhelmed. And to accomplish that you need to:

Remember what is important (for you!)

If it is all about recreating the taste of Grandma’s filling – focus on that. If all you care about is Jesus reborn in your heart – even better, concentrate on your spiritual needs. The pressure of gifts, Pinterest-level decorations (obviously better than the neighbor’s), twelve-course meals for your guests can easily overshadow true meaning of holiday season. Remember – overspending increases your stress and then with snowball effect causes emotional problems, relationship problems, communication problems, not much time, but lots to do, which cause what? Yes, more stress!! Vicious circle!

Take care of yourself

Aren’t you like a little hamster running in the wheel, looking into the wallet, working hard, spending money to de-stress just to wake up next morning to look in the wallet… Stop! Pay attention to what you have, budget for what you need, whatever is left – plan with what you want in mind. Being aware of what you are going through is very helpful. Go for a long walk and focus on your feelings. If you need to relax, do that. You don’t need to spend money on that, lay down and listen to some music. Eating healthy and engage in sports activities usually help too. Being outside in sunlight additionally stimulates the production of serotonin, which protects you from seasonal affective disorder, so-called seasonal depression.

Volunteer

Despite the obvious benefits of volunteering, you can also see your own problems in perspective while helping others, less fortunate. This is also an opportunity to teach your kids about the values you want to share. Work together and put all the stress in a broader viewpoint, build stronger relationships with your family and friends

Seek connections

Talk with others about the holiday-related stress. You might just find out that you are not alone. Remember the intro to this post – financial stress concerns more than half of the population. You don’t have to navigate the overwhelming season on your own. Set aside differences and find common ground. “Hey Uncle Joe, my car broke. I am not able to fix it this month. Can we carpool to Aunt May this year? Next time, we’ll take you guys!” Maybe reconnecting with family members may actually alleviate the stress in opposition to what you see in all the movies. What brings us to:

Go as tech-free as you can

Social media, TV, all the commercials. Do I need to say more? You are exposed to chaotic incentives all.the.time. Do you really need more reasons to be anxious? All you need is an ad of a tropical island vacation to relax after the holiday season? NO! All you need is to draft next year’s budget!

Did you guess my final thought? This year start preparations for the next one. Make plans as you go through the season. Always have a notebook with you and write down your reflections. Try to find out what amount of money will you need next year and start saving now! It’s easier when you have 12 months for everything, rather than figuring it out last minute. That is my best advice to avoid financial stress – being prepared and in control way before the season starts.

 

Alicja is a wife, mom of three, coffee and pizza addict and recently also a blogger. Her educational background in psychology and finances helps in her trials of maintaining control over all mother/housewife responsibilities. She created Just Redefine fulfilling the mission of supporting other moms in being proactive about their goals, mindset and redefining their reality so it matches their expectations.

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