A grown-up Christmas (stress buster) list: MakatiMed shares tips to ward off holiday stress

December 10, 2023

For Filipinos, the holidays bring some of the best times—but they can also be the most stressful! Between frantic gift shopping, excruciatingly slow holiday traffic, and even pressing concerns about the rising cost of goods, there’s a lot that can take the ‘Merry’ away from Christmas.

Edgardo Juan L. Tolentino, Jr., MD from the Department of Neuropsychiatry at the top hospital in the Philippines Makati Medical Center (MakatiMed) shares that holiday stress is a very real thing. “Holiday stress typically comes from coping with high expectations to make every meal and gift perfect, to attend every single party,” explains Dr. Tolentino. “It shares many of the typical symptoms of regular stress such as anxiety, headaches, inability to sleep, body aches, and irritability. Since we cannot completely remove stress from our lives, we should find ways to lessen its impact on our overall wellbeing.” 

MakatiMed shares a few stress-busting strategies over the holidays. 

Plan ahead. The season of get-togethers requires some serious logistics. “Being prepared is one of the best ways to alleviate stress. It can be something as simple as buying gifts ahead of time or as elaborate as plotting the best and traffic-less route going to the in-laws. It’s also wise to make a to-do list of all your needs and activities this season, so nothing slips from your mind,” shares Dr. Tolentino. 

Embrace the Christmas spirit. It’s time to amp up the holiday cheer at home! Throw on a joyous Paskong Pinoy playlist or light some Christmas-themed candles like cinnamon or peppermint. Or simply clean your room or the entire house to give you a sense of clarity and peace of mind during these stressful times. “Your surroundings play a crucial part in regulating stress. Whatever it is you like to do, do whatever it takes to make sure you have an environment you can relax in,” reminds Dr. Tolentino. 

Set healthy boundaries. Filipinos know it all too well—a big chunk of holiday stress comes from dealing with judgmental titas or other toxic relatives. “It’s not easy, but it’s best to accept that some family members can be difficult. If things get tense with someone, remember that you can only control how you respond. While you don’t have to please them, you also don’t have to be rude,” says Dr. Tolentino. “If it’s possible, inform your family which topics you’re uncomfortable with. It may also be helpful to set a time limit when you’re together, leave early if you need to. You don’t have to stay if you’re feeling all stressed out.” 

Just say no. There is nothing wrong with saying ‘no’, especially if you’re already spreading yourself too thin. “Recognize that it's perfectly acceptable to send your regrets. It’s okay to refuse invites that are already in conflict with your initial plans,” notes Dr. Tolentino. “Learn to say no, and you’ll also learn that people are actually okay with that too. By being intentional with your commitments, you’ll find more time for opportunities and activities that genuinely bring you joy and maybe you’ll find the time to sneak in some much-needed holiday R&R too.” 

MakatiMed reminds people not to lose sight of what truly matters this holiday season—spending time with your family and friends. “With all the hustle and bustle, it’s easy to forget that the holidays were originally a time meant for our loved ones. Keeping this in mind will help you put things in perspective and even better cope with annoyances like long lines and traffic,” shares Dr. Tolentino. “Take it easy and enjoy the most wonderful time of the year.”

For more information, please contact MakatiMed On-Call at +632.88888 999, email mmc@makatimed.net.ph, or visit www.makatimed.net.ph. Follow @IamMakatiMed on Facebook and Twitter.