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Publication: Becoming Sisters
© Luvia Lazo

Holiday Stress and Self-care

Leigh Knauz
+December 24, 2022
Minnesotans love hygge (winter coziness and togetherness). It's a beautiful feeling beloved the world over. However, 44% of women report higher stress levels over the holidays. The beauty of the holidays can be a burden for those all too often expected to put more than their fair share of energy into creating it. The increase in stress over this beautiful winter season is all too familiar to many people, so let's discuss some common winter holiday stressors and some ideas for mitigating them in hopes of creating a sense of hygge not only for others but ourselves as well.
Prioritizing others is a kind thing to do, but it can entail unhealthy self-sacrifice, especially when one already has a lot of responsibilities. Budgeting time is essential, as is dealing with personal duties before extending a hand of generosity to others. With less tasks burdening shoulders, it becomes easier and more enjoyable to spend quality time with others. When trying to have fun with friends or family with work tasks or household responsibilities looming in the back of our mind, the time spent becomes a chore in itself.
FFU image
© Luvia Lazo
Friends and family can be a boon and closeness with them can bring some brightness and cheer to the cold winter weather. They can land in our mind with the gentleness of a butterfly, much like that depicted by photographer Luvia Lazo, whose focus on the hyper-real is calming and poignant as the winter snow. There are times, however, when a family member or supposed friend causes more pain than negative-degree winds. This is a time to be unafraid of saying no to invitations to family gatherings and other events that bring more of a sense of unwelcome than togetherness. Speaking up or leaving a situation that makes one uncomfortable should never be a source of shame, and taking a breather when overwhelmed can be a beneficial move as well. When deciding which invitations to accept, it is important to consider which obligations one has the emotional and physical energy to accept. If spending time with loved ones is too stressful a proposition at the moment, and spending time alone is needed, that also is an option that should be far more normalized.
Creating holiday parties by decorating, cooking, and choosing or making cards and gifts can be delightful, and it can be a great way to enjoy a sense of hygge, but of course sometimes it reaches a level of overload. When this is the case, asking for help in accomplishing the tasks needed to make a party magical is always a great idea. Also, it is important to remember that decorations and gifts are not what makes a gathering special, but the bond between those gathered.
Gifts are another way people all too often overextend themselves in being kind to others. If gifts are an economic hardship, a friendly phone call, email, or letter can still be a way to encourage a very hygge feeling of closeness without causing undue stress. After all, caring and good wishes can be a gift in themselves!
FFU image
© Luvia Lazo
Grief, loneliness, and seasonal affective disorder are also things to bear in mind. Help is not only something one may need in doing holiday tasks, but handling difficult emotions around this time. When grief or other troublesome emotions overwhelm, never hesitate to reach out to a trusted party or even a therapist or helpline if needed.
If celebrating a holiday feels underacknowledged, that can create a whole other minefield to navigate. One could try responding with good wishes for the holiday celebrated when wished a good holiday that isn't part of one's own beliefs. Encouraging acknowledgement and visibility in the workplace and on social media is another great option.
Feeling lonely, overwhelmed, or unaccepted is a huge and painful emotional load, if stressed due to these feelings, it is always a possibility to reach out to others who feel the same. For example, reaching out to people in one's own religious or spiritual community when feeling alone in celebrating a particular holiday may bring some more connectedness and closeness. If grieving a lost loved one or feeling alone in general, participating in community activities may help.
Budgeting time, ensuring economic health, taking care of emotional and physical needs, and having fun with loved ones all at the same time can be particularly rough as the days get shorter. Never forget to take time for some solitary recharging, to ask for help when needed, and always being sure to check in with those close and dear to make sure everyone has the happiest and most hygge wintertime celebrations of their dreams this season.