Managing Holiday Stress

The holidays are here and the “Gimme, Gimme’s, I want, I want’s and Buy me, Buy me’s” are getting louder and louder. There are presents to buy and wrap, decorations to put up, the perfect tree to get, cookies to make, cards to mail out, and parties to attend. Demands are coming from work, family and friends. Things are getting out of control and the clock is ticking, ticking, ticking. You’re feeling tired, harassed, anxious and depressed. How can you ever find the time to do it all?? The answer is, you can’t do it all. The perfect holiday only exists in movies or books.


Here are some ideas for handling holiday stress courtesy of the Mayo Clinic, WebMD, and Cleveland Clinic.


Be realistic.

The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos, or try FaceTime or Skype. Set aside differences and try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. This is not the time to bring up old grievances and try for a solution. Try to be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes astray. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.


Stick to a budget.

Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Here are some alternatives: Ask people what they would like instead of spending precious time trying to find the perfect gift. Donate to a charity in someone’s name. If you’re crafty, give homemade gifts. Start a family gift exchange. Draw names from a hat and make sure to set spending limits.


Plan ahead.

Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list to help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. Be sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup. Make some items ahead of time and freeze them. Try a potluck dinner. Have everyone bring their favorite recipe and serve it buffet style. Using plastic utensils and paper plates can save time in the kitchen. Both can be found in festive holiday motifs.


Learn to say no.

Saying yes when you want to say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If you can’t say no, your boss asks you to work overtime for example, try to remove something of lesser importance from your agenda to make up for the lost time.


Don’t abandon healthy habits.

The holidays shouldn’t be a free-for-all of overindulgence. It will only add to stress and guilt. Try having a healthy snack before holiday parties so you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Make sure you get plenty of sleep. Incorporate regular physical activity into each day, a walk in the crisp air can do wonders for your mood. Make some time for yourself everyday. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you think you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

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