10 Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress

by Karen Lee Richards, ChronicPainConnection Expert

The holiday season tends to be stressful for everyone, but the stress can be magnified when you’re in chronic pain.  Since stress tends to increase pain, it’s important to plan ahead and do whatever you can to reduce your stress during the holidays.  Here are some tips that might help:

  1. Avoid the stress and exhaustion of holiday shopping by ordering your gifts from catalogs and TV shopping channels.  You don’t even have to get dressed to shop!  An added benefit is that out-of-town gifts can be sent directly to the recipients, saving you the hassle of finding a box, packaging the gifts and waiting in line at the post office. 
  2. If you have to shop at malls and shopping centers during the holidays, try to do your shopping on weekdays if possible.  You’ll find better parking spaces and shorter checkout lines.   
  3. Use gift bags instead of traditional wrapping.   (Dollar stores, catalogs and TV shopping channels often offer low-cost assortments of gift bags.)
  4. Each year, between busy schedules and increased postage costs, fewer and fewer people send holiday cards.  If you still feel you must send some cards, be selective.  Only send them to close friends and family you seldom see.  
  5. Learn to say “no” without feeling guilty.  It‘s ok to say no –– really it is.  You know your limits better than anyone else.  People will almost always push you to do more than you’re comfortable with if you let them, but they’ll usually respect your decision if you tell them you can’t.  Decide what is important to you and your family and how much you’re able to handle, then say no to everything else. 
  6. When everyone is coming to your house for dinner, ask each one to bring one or two dishes, leaving yourself only one or two simple items to prepare.
  7. If you are going out of town to visit relatives for the holidays, consider staying at a hotel for at least part of the time.   Having a separate haven will reduce your stress by giving you a sense of control over your own space and activities for at least a portion of each day.
  8. If the demands of your extended family are more than you can handle each year, consider making an annual holiday vacation a new family tradition.  (Try a western dude ranch, a chalet in the mountains, or a warm tropical beach.) This can be a special bonding time for you and your immediate family.  You will not feel compelled to cook, and you will probably reduce the size of your gift list because everything will have to fit in a car or on a plane. 
  9. Develop an attitude of gratitude.  Take time to think about all the people and things in your life that you are thankful for.  Whenever possible, tell people why you’re grateful to have them in your life.  Thank the store clerk for helping you and the stranger for holding the elevator for you.  Recent studies showed that people who make a conscious effort to be thankful were not only more joyful and optimistic, but they also had fewer illnesses. 
  10. Set aside a little quiet time for yourself each day to relax and de-stress.  Put on some headphones and listen to soothing music or soak in a warm bubble bath. 

Last updated: 10/31/07

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