Suffering from holiday financial anxiety? 4 ways to cope and manage stress

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Between the twinkling lights, festive cookies and spending time with your loved ones, the holiday season is meant to be a joyful time of year. Despite all of the feel-good aspects of the season, it also comes with a lot of pressure, leading many to feel anxious and stressed.

In fact, it’s no surprise that a whopping 82 percent of Americans reported that the holidays contribute to their stress and make them more anxious about the upcoming season, according to a study by N26, a mobile banking platform.

And while there’s no quick fix or cure-all approach to avoid these feelings, there are a few steps you can take to relieve them.

Tips for managing your holiday-induced stress and anxiety

1. Discuss with friends and family

“If the holidays give you financial stress and anxiety, talk with your loved ones about an alternative format to holiday spending and gift-giving this year that takes the pressure off of everyone,” says Ilian Georgiev, CEO and co-founder of Charlie, a personal finance app.

When discussing, Georgiev suggests mentioning the following ideas:

  • Reduce spending by setting spending limits.
  • Skip the gift exchange altogether and focus on celebrating with your loved ones.

While you may feel like a grinch suggesting these types of ideas, your loved ones will hopefully understand and may even empathize with you — especially considering the year we’ve all had and the financial hardship it’s brought to millions.

“Always remember, you are absolutely not the only one who is having a difficult time with the holidays this year,” says Dr. Georgia Gaveras, chief psychiatrist and co-founder of Talkiatry, a New York-based mental health service provider. “Try managing your anxiety through transparency and planning. You may end up being a hero this holiday season if you propose limiting the number of gifts everyone buys.”

2. Make a plan

After deciding how (or if) you’re going to give gifts this year, come up with a plan of attack.

“Planning is anxiety-provoking while you are in the midst of it, but having a plan is comforting and does so much to relieve stress,” says Gaveras.

Your plan will likely include creating a holiday budget based on your current financial situation, setting a holiday spending limit among your loved ones, picking your gifts and then scouting out deals.

3. Take time to understand your emotions

It’s a stressful time of year and sometimes taking the time to pause and recognize just that can be helpful in and of itself.

According to the N26 study, if you’re having to adjust your day-to-day to ease financial stress, you might have a tough time coping with change. This is normal. However, be sure to give yourself some grace and take the time to understand your feelings so that you can deal with them, breathe, reset and reframe the situation.

“If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and practice mindfulness by bringing your attention to the present moment,” says Jolie Weingeroff, a clinical psychologist who sees clients in New York and Rhode Island.

Two techniques Weingeroff suggests include:

  • Box breathing: Trace the outline of a rectangle — like a window — and inhale along one edge, exhale along the next, and repeat.
  • See three things, hear three things, feel three things: Cycle through and identify things in your environment that you see, hear, and can feel.

4. Find some joy and practice self-care

When feeling stressed out, it’s easy to forget about treating yourself — especially when the stress is financially- and holiday-related. But treating yourself doesn’t have to mean buying yourself a material item; it can also mean taking a walk or letting yourself take a break.

Take a step back from the chaos and do something that brings you joy. Maybe it’s coloring or taking a long, hot shower. Whatever it may be, don’t forget that you can and should treat yourself.

After all, the holidays are also meant to be a time for relaxing and recouping.

Bottom line

The holidays can be a stressful time of year. Add in a pandemic along with the related recession and you’ve probably found yourself with even more feelings of stress and anxiety than the year before.

Remember to give yourself some grace and don’t feel bad if you can’t celebrate the way you may have in years past.

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