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Deck The Halls: What Americans Would Sacrifice for a Stress-Free Holiday

By Anna McGeehan
Annie Spratt

It seems like the holiday season gets longer each year. From November 1st to December 31st you can expect to see Santa and snowmen adorning the aisles of most department and drugstores. And quite frankly, it’s stressing people out.

With November well underway, we wanted to know more about holiday stress, so we asked 1,000 people their thoughts on the upcoming season. We expected to learn that people are, in fact, stressed, we just didn’t realize the magnitude that stress.

Roughly 66%—two out of every three Americans—report being stressed during the holidays, with more people feeling anxious about Christmas than Thanksgiving and Black Friday combined.

Even more surprising, we learned that people are willing to go to some great lengths to be less stressed. Roughly 14% of men, for example, would give up money, while 17% of women would give up sex.

Clearly, the holidays can be a perfect storm of stressors, but what exactly gets us feeling so anxious come November?

Money

Whether it’s the expectation of creating an Insta-worthy holiday spread, the pressure to decorate your house to Pinterest perfection, or the weight of trying to find a gift for friends, family, and whoever else, money is unequivocally the number one stressor during the holidays.

Specifically, 42% of Americans said that money is a primary source of anxiety—more than double that of any other stressor on our list.

There’s good reason to be stressed too. The National Retail Federation (NRF) reports that consumers will spend an average of $1,007.24 this holiday season, with gifts, food, flowers, and decorations accounting for almost 85% of spending.

Retailers are well aware of consumers’ habits and use some sneaky tactics to increase our impulse tendencies. Music, scents, the store layout, even the way the price is displayed, can induce greater impulse buying and add to our financial woes.

Family

Family can be another source of anxiety during the holidays. Nearly 20% of respondents said family is their primary stressor, and this was split evenly among men and women.

The increasingly hostile political climate can add a lot of anxiety to family gatherings, especially when navigating sensitive topics like religion, gun control, or other ideologies. According to the American Institute of Stress, America’s top stressors include political topics such as the future of our nation, the current political climate, and violence and crime.

Travel

We’ve discussed travel-related stress at Remedy Review before, but since travel is so closely intertwined with the holidays, it’s no surprise that it’s is a source of stress for an estimated 14.4% of Americans.

Three of the busiest travel times take place in November and December, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. Last year, 51 million Americans traveled during Thanksgiving, the highest volume in 12 years, and another 107.3 million Americans traveled between December 23rd and January 1st, the highest rate to date.

Holiday travels stress out men and women alike, according to our survey. Roughly 60% of men report traveling during the holidays, and nearly one-third find holiday travel stressful. This same ratio plays out for women too, with 50% of women traveling and 11% reporting being stressed.

The Less Jolly Side of The Holidays

We’re not trying to be a Scrooge, but holiday stress can take a serious toll on our health and lead to some consequential outcomes.

Roughly 43% of respondents said holiday stress affects their overall health, which can manifest as minor inconveniences like a headache and digestive problems, or grow into larger issues like memory and concentration issues, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, according to WebMD.

Couple these health risks with the added slices of pumpkin pie and an increase in sedentary activities, and the holidays can easily snowball from temporary stresses to more long-term health issues.

A majority of respondents also said holiday stress impacts their sleep, though women were more likely to report sleep issues than men.

Missing a night or two of beauty rest won’t have a lasting impact, but extended periods of bad sleep can have some pretty negative impacts, especially on our cognitive functions. Researchers at the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School explain that sleep plays a critical role in learning and long-term memory formation. Essentially, we develop long-term memories in three phases, but sleep is particularly crucial for a process known as consolidation, the phase where our brain retains and stabilizes new information.

While quality sleep isn’t the only factor contributing to memory formation, without it, our ability to form and retain information can be reduced.

Happier Holidays

Whether it’s the extra-accessible eggnog or the escalating holiday stress, a lot of us turn to alcohol to deal with anxiety. Almost 21% of respondents report imbibing to manage holiday stress, and nearly 18% take prescription medication.

Only 4.7% said they turn to other therapeutic options such as CBD oil to manage stress, perhaps not knowing it’s an option. If you’re looking for ways to get through the holidays a little healthier this year, CBD and CBD-infused drinks might be your answer.

CBD, the non-psychoactive extract of the cannabis plant, is popping up in tons of different consumable products these days. You can easily swap the holiday punch for a CBD-infused protein drink, CBD-infused coffee, or even sparkling water, which pledges to leave you “not tired, not wired.”

CBD is known to have anxiolytic effects, meaning it can potentially help you relax without the adverse side effects of alcohol or prescription drugs. It’s also a powerful antioxidant that might help protect your body from further stress.

Although the biochemistry is not wholly understood, many experts believe CBD can bind different receptors in our endocannabinoid system and help balance the chemicals in our brain that are responsible for feelings of panic, depression, and anxiety. 

CBD might help you feel more relaxed during the holidays and is probably a healthier alternative to some of the more common coping mechanisms. It might even help you sleep better.

It won’t, unfortunately, eliminate of all your holiday anxiety. For holistic stress management, you might try some good old fashion coping mechanisms, such as a few deep breaths, a positive mindset, a good exercise routine, and maybe just a sip of eggnog.

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