I invited Heather Bowen Ray, a wellness copywriter and self-care enthusiast, to join me on the Her Well Being Podcast (my first video podcast!) to talk about the article she co-wrote with Amy Norton called Mentally Preparing for the Holiday Frenzy about how holiday stress affects women and what they can do to reduce their stress.
Here are some highlights of our conversation:
Women Experience The Holidays Differently
HB: Heather, can you tell us how women experience the holidays differently from men?
HBR: Yes, my opinion is that women are responsible for a lot of invisible tasks, things that we don’t necessarily see like the shopping or the planning that make the holidays so special. Some of the tips we came up with were to realize when it’s okay to say no to some of those things and to plan out your holiday season based on the intuitive feelings you have about whether you want to be doing X, Y, or Z.
Holiday Stress and Common Coping Mechanisms for Women
HB: Tell me a little about the research. I was struck by the numbers.
HBR: This article was written a little while ago (2019). I was astounded at the disparity between men and women. I do think there’s plenty of stress on men as well during the holidays, but 40% of women turned to food to cope and 28% of women turn to alcohol to cope, and the numbers are much lower for men in studies by the American Psychological Association. Even more recently, I’ve seen similar articles that say it’s still true today. So, it seems like it’s something that we’re not getting away from even though we’re hearing more and more about mindfulness.
Balancing Fun and Obligations
HB: Women do tend to take on the lion’s share of the responsibilities around the holidays. And then there’s all the extra things, right? The office potluck, the party with friends, hosting people, etc. This can be a really fun time and exciting time, and it can be a time when women are putting too much on their plate.
The Consequences of Holiday Stress
Looking at the figures, 30-40% of women cope in unhealthy ways because of the stress during the holidays, that just breaks my heart because not only are we taking on responsibilities we’re also hurting ourselves with these unhealthy coping mechanisms. So, this is pretty serious.
HBR: Yeah, definitely. I’ve seen this survey of a thousand American adults regarding sleep that was more recent than that other article. And it said that nearly 3 in 10 people way they get less sleep around the holidays, too. I feel like this is a time when we’re maybe kind of naturally supposed to be hibernating, but we’re busy keeping ourselves busy running from place to place. And then we’re so stressed. We can’t even rest, you know, during our set time for sleep. And those things like sleep and stress management are pretty foundational. And then what women tend to do is tend to turn to food to calm themselves.
The Importance of Taking Time for Yourself
HBR: I heard Tony Robbins say, can we all agree if you don’t have 20 minutes for yourself in the morning and the afternoon, you just just don’t have a life, which may sound harsh, but that might be something to consider that will help someone give themselves permission to take the time they need whenever possible. I know, especially if you have kids, sometimes they’re running into your room at 5 a.m., and you feel like you don’t have that time, but there may be a way to get it. You’re just going to have to advocate for yourself. In a way, you know, that’s part of saying no as well.
HB: Even scheduling that time if you need to. My kids don’t get up that early anymore, thank goodness. So I do get a little bit of time for myself in the morning, but I swear if I didn’t have that time in the morning, I don’t think I would feel as grounded through the day.
Strategies for Managing Holiday Stress
HB: Let’s talk about some of these strategies that you mentioned in the article. Which ones do you think are most important?
HBR: Well, I’ve mentioned saying no a couple of times. That’s one of the first tips. Another one is keeping your routine. Like any self-care routines that you do have, don’t let them fall by the wayside if you can. Keep your workout time going. Keep setting a time to read a book or watch TV, or, you know, enjoy a cup of tea.
HBR: Or even just taking the time to check in with yourself. It’s that pause that refreshers you when you park at home. If you can take a second by yourself in the car after going on a shopping trip or something, just to set sort of a reflective question, how am I feeling? What’s going on within myself and my body? Take time to do some breathing exercises or just a casual deep breath …
HBR … and think through what’s coming up. And not with panic, but more of a, how can I be intentional about this and let it kind of unfold before me without trying to control every aspect of the holiday season? So, planning as early as possible. I like to plan it out a little at a time, and do a little bit at a time rather than everything all at once. And, if you hate something or if it stresses you out, do you need to do it, or can you outsource part of it, or can you rethink how it’s done?
Prioritizing What Really Matters
HB: I like how you talked about putting focus on what matters to you. And the question that you asked was, or the article asked, was how do you want to feel? When we think about the holidays, do we want to feel happy, supported by spending time with friends, and connected with people, as opposed to those obligations that don’t feel as good? I thought that was a great compass to think of, in terms of how we can choose what we do or don’t do using the powerful word, no, to take a pass on some of those things that aren’t going to feel aligned with how you want to feel this holiday season – or ever.
HBR: I think that is absolutely the way to think about it. And maybe part of the planning process, of course, you want to think about yourself and that is a huge step in having the capacity to reach out to others around you and find out what’s important to them.
Self-Care as a Form of Replenishment
HB: The holidays are such a tricky time. Usually what happens with my clients, so many people, and it happens to me too, fall out of their routines because there is so much going on. And then after the holidays, we’re picking up the pieces and trying to figure out how to put those pieces back together. Do you have any particular tips on self-care around the holidays that you want to share?
HBR: I think we’re often being marketed to, you know, you must do self-care and it requires this loofah or this cream or whatever. And remember that, especially this year you hear a lot about inflation in the economy, self-care does not have to be expensive. It just needs to be something that replenishes you. And I have also heard some pushback on the advice to just take a bath. Like, I don’t have time to take a bath! OK, well, if a bath doesn’t work for you, what does? And it can be different for every person.
HBR: I just think it’s so important to remember that you’re doing self-care as a way to give yourself space to make better decisions that meet your criteria. Hopefully, the goal is, at least for me, it spills over into being more loving and giving in an authentic way rather than out of a sense of obligation.
HB: Yeah, (self-care) is a feeling. It doesn’t require buying anything, like you said. It doesn’t have to take too much time because I know we’re all short on time. But here’s the thing, self-care does take some time. It is a little bit of a commitment. The fantastic thing is that it can be whatever you need it to be.
About Heather Bowen Ray
Heather Bowen Ray, is a wellness copywriter and self-care enthusiast. Heather works with spas, retreats, and resorts. She has an extensive background in writing marketing campaigns that launch innovative product and service offerings for healers, therapists, and wellness centers.
Please reach out to Heather at letswriteyourstories.com for more information or to book a consultation – she’s excited to discuss how her skills and passion can contribute to your establishment’s success.
I wish you a relatively stress-free holiday!
Heather R. Burkart
Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner
Founder, Her Well Being Ayurveda & Yoga
Please be advised that the content on this website is for education and information purposes only and does not replace advice from a medical professional.