The holidays are filled with traveling, shopping and gift-giving—which is supposed to make us all feel relaxed. But as it turns out, the logistics of holiday planning can be a major drag on our sense of well-being. According to one survey, as many as 62% of respondents described themselves as "very or somewhat" stressed during the holiday season. This isn't what the holidays are meant to be.
But given all the planning, cooking, shopping and traveling that we expect of ourselves during the holidays, how can we fight the stress and ensure a satisfying holiday season? Here are some ideas.
Getting More Out of the Time Off
For many people, the holiday season means getting some additional time off—even if it's as little as an extra day. But as the statistics show, not everyone is turning that time off into reduced stress and improved relaxation. Here are some ways to get more from the time off.
- Be conscious of your outlets. According to Psychology Today, many people turn to bad habits to deal with the heightened stress of the holidays. Instead, try to plan some de-stressing activities to better cope with the increased demand on your mental faculties, such as "calm-down" breaks throughout the season.
- Use your vacation days. According to Project: Time Off, people collectively forfeit 212 million vacation days in the U.S. every year. If your company offers time off during the holidays, plan to take advantage of it. It may be a busy time at work, but planning ahead can make all the difference.
- Get more sleep. Traveling can sometimes mean cutting into sleep—for example, you may need to take an early flight or sleep in a new place. But that sleep deprivation can cause a lot of unnecessary stress. Just as someone sets a holiday spending and travel budget, make yourself a sleep budget and find ways to handle the stressors ahead.
Reduce Costs by Planning Ahead
Unexpected costs and poorly crafted plans have a way of generating unnecessary stress. According to the American Institute of Stress, job pressure and money are two of the most powerful stressors in our lives. That's why managing money ahead of time can have a dramatic impact on the way we experience the holidays.
- Use credit card cash-back points and travel rewards. How important are travel rewards? According to a travel research firm, some 30% of travelers said they would sacrifice safety ratings for hotel loyalty/rewards incentives. That shows the dramatic impact that planning ahead with credit card cash-back points and travel rewards can have on your overall stress levels.
- Save money throughout the year. The time to reduce stress during the holiday season may not, in fact, be during the holiday season itself. Set aside money throughout the year, knowing well in advance that the holiday season means spending money. Using savings accounts and accruing cash back rewards can help reduce the financial stress of the holiday season.
- Don't tap into retirement to cover shortcomings. According to a 2016 T. Rowe Price report, some tap into their emergency savings or retirement savings to handle the increased burden of holiday spending. This is simply a bad decision. Tapping into retirement savings can incur taxes and penalties and lead to more long-term stress. It's far better to plan ahead and sacrifice throughout the year rather than wait until it's too late during the holiday season.
The holiday season can be especially challenging for those on a tight budget. It's tempting to believe that traveling and shopping are two essential keys to getting the most out of the holidays. And that can be true sometimes. A holiday vacation can help you unwind. However, it can also become a financial burden. That's why it's so vital for people to plan ahead of time and use rewards and other benefits to reduce stress over the holiday season.