Handling Stress During the Holidays: 20 Tips

Eileen Bailey Health Guide

    The holiday season is in full swing and with it comes weekends with one activity after another, shopping excursions, long days and less sleep. All of these can increase stress levels and leave you feeling emotionally drained and instead of enjoying the season, you find yourself snapping and friends and relatives, finding reasons to avoid holiday parties and dreading the holidays rather than enjoying yourself.


    There are some strategies you can use throughout the holiday to help minimize the stress you feel and help you enjoy the season.


    • Make sure your expectations for the holidays are realistic. Sometimes we believe that all will be okay, peaceful and joyous, just because it is the holiday season. But family disagreements and poor relationships don't repair themselves, just because of the time of year. If you don't like spending time with your relatives the rest of the year, you probably won't enjoy spending time with them now. Remember to keep your expectations of the holiday fitting to your situation.
    • Understand your holiday triggers. What causes you distress during this time? Is spending time with a family member or is it spending time alone, away from family? Recognizing what situations cause you stress can help you find alternatives that may be more enjoyable.


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    • Create a budget for holiday spending. Overspending not only causes immediate stress, it can create problems for months. Find alternatives to gifts, such as offering to baby sit for couples with small children or helping out by running errands for an elderly relative. Gifts of your time can mean much more than ruining your budget to buy a gift.
    • Make sure you get enough sleep. Extra activities and parties can rob you of a good night's sleep. Say "no" to some social functions to make sure you are getting the rest you need. Lack of sleep can increase stress.
    • Eat correctly. Even though you are busy, don't skip meals and minimize fast food and junk food. A good nutritious diet can help you better cope with stressful situations.
    • When attending holiday parties, stay away from alcohol. Drinking alcohol can increase feelings of stress and the potential for conflict.
    • Accept situations that cause sadness or loneliness. Sometimes we feel that we must be happy during the holiday season, but situations such as death or illness, being separated from loved ones or recent upheaval in your life can leave you feeling sad or lonely. Accept these feelings and take time to grieve or cope with your situation.
    • If you are separated from your family, find other outlets to surround yourself with people. Join in activities at a church or other community events. Volunteer to help people less fortunate in your community.
    • Accept families don't always agree. Set aside differences or differing opinions during family events. Accept family members will not always live up to your expectations. If disagreements interfere with your relationships, set up a time to talk with the family member, away from get-togethers to discuss the situation.
    • Plan holiday activities. Use one calendar to keep track of events, social functions and other activities, including shopping. Limit yourself to one or two activities per day to avoid being overwhelmed.
    • Create shopping lists ahead of time. Decide who you want to purchase gifts for and put one or two ideas on your list to avoid wandering around the mall without direction.
    • Choose at least one night a week to do nothing. Staying home can help you reenergize for more holiday events.
    • Delegate responsibilities. Can your children, husband or other family members help with some of the chores you need to complete? Instead of feeling as if you must do everything yourself, share your frustrations with your family and enlist their help. Once someone else offers to take over a chore, let it go and use this time to complete chores you must do yourself.
    • Remember the good in your life. The holidays are a good time to reflect on the blessings you have. Think about what you have accomplished over the past year. During times of stress, we tend to focus on the negative, and end up increasing our feelings of frustration. Instead, take time to remember the good.
    • When hosting a get-together, make it a pot-luck. Limiting the amount of food you must prepare can help you enjoy your guests. If a pot-luck isn't possible, consider catering or purchasing a deli-tray and making dinner a simple affair.
    • Use a gift-wrapping service. Many malls will have special gift wrapping services and many donate the proceeds to a specific charity.
    • Exercise on a regular basis. Exercise can help to reduce stress. If you already exercise, keep up with your regular schedule. Before beginning an exercise routine, talk with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to exercise.
    • When feeling overwhelmed, take five minutes to do yoga or meditate or while you are at the mall, take a break and go for a massage.
    • Say "no" when you need to. Don't say "yes" to every invitation if you are already overbooked or don't agree to help bake cupcakes when you are already stressed out. (Opt instead to bring juice or something that doesn't require time and effort.)
    • If you are feeling depressed, chronically sad or if feelings of anxiety are interfering with your ability to function or enjoy your holidays, seek professional help. There is nothing wrong with talking with a therapist or going to seek a mental health provider to help you cope with the overwhelm of the holidays.


  •  More holiday help:

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    Holiday Help Guide


Published On: December 15, 2009