Managing Stress During The Holidays

Posted at November 15, 2009 | Categories : Articles,Depression,Stress | 0 Comment

The holidays are supposed to be a time of family, togetherness and joy. Instead, many people end up feeling overwhelmed, stressed and fatigued. The sheer amount of parties, family gatherings and gift shopping that needs to be done leaves many people dreading the holiday season instead of looking forward to it.
In addition to making you feel irritable and moody, too much stress can result in sleep problems, tension headaches, backaches and stomachaches. Stress during the holidays can also mean less tolerance for family and an inability to enjoy the time you have together.

It is nearly impossible to eliminate all holiday-related stress, but there are ways you can manage it:

Stay Organized.
A lot of stress during the holidays comes from feeling overwhelmed, and feeling as though you are running out of time to get things accomplished. But you know your deadlines – the holidays happen at the same time every year. So start planning, buying and baking early enough that everything doesn’t pile up on you at once:

  • If you see a present at the store during the year that would be great for your brother, buy it then instead of planning to do it closer to the holidays.
  • Make a point to buy any wrapping supplies a few months out so you can avoid long lines, or figure out what you will be making for family dinner in advance so you can have all the ingredients at hand.
  • Being organized doesn’t have to mean having a folder dedicated to the holidays (though that couldn’t hurt), but it does mean giving yourself enough time and space to get things done without you feeling so overwhelmed that you just don’t want to do it at all.

Learn to Say No.
Saying no during the holiday season isn’t always easy, especially if you are declining a request from family members or close friends. But you don’t have to accept every party invitation or Secret Santa gift exchange that comes your way. Take on only as much as you feel you can handle, and that you have the time for. Giving yourself room to relax and decompress during the holidays is more important than yet another holiday party.

Take Care of Yourself.
A whirlwind of holiday activities will definitely not be fun if you are feeling sick or rundown. Holiday celebrations usually involve eating a lot of sugary and high-fat foods, which can drain your energy and put you at a higher risk of getting sick. Avoiding these temptations is next to impossible, but try to indulge in moderation and stick to an otherwise healthy diet. Getting enough exercise and sleep will also help you reserve your energy and ward off stress.

Ask For Help.
Unless you’re able to replicate yourself, you probably can’t do it all without feeling like you’re being pulled in too many directions. The best way to get relief is to ask for help:

  • Have somebody else pick up the pie or bring the fresh-baked rolls.
  • Have everyone chip in after dinner or a party to help you clean, or have a gift-wrapping party so that it doesn’t seem like such a chore.
  • People like being asked to help, so you shouldn’t feel as though you are burdening others if you need an extra set of hands.
  • The stress relief will come from not only having fewer things to do, but from having people you care about around you to help you do them.

Lower Your Expectations.
If you aren’t able to hire an interior decorator, the chances of you making your house look like the North Pole in time for your holiday gathering are slim. Realize that not every present is going to look like it was gift-wrapped at a department store and not every meal is going to be gourmet.

You can eliminate a lot of stress by lowering the expectations you have of yourself and others. Do what you are able to within a reasonable amount of time and budget. Planning for more than you can handle can cause unnecessary stress and leave you feeling disappointed if you can’t accomplish what you set out to do.
Stick to a Budget. A lot of holiday stress comes from worrying about not being able to buy everybody presents or that you are going to go into overdraft trying to decorate. That’s where creating a budget is helpful. You will know how much you are comfortably able to spend, and for what.

Remember that the purpose of the holidays is not to spend a lot of money – it’s a time to gather with loved ones. Ask your friends and family members if they would be okay with not exchanging gifts this year, or if they would just want to buy small gifts for all of the kids. If you are worried about spending too much money on food and drinks, have a potluck or ask people to bring items that don’t fit within your budget.

Think Positively.
If you’re a worst-case scenario kind of person, try to put a positive spin on things instead. Being stressed about things that may not happen isn’t productive, and can take energy away from accomplishing things that will happen. Learn to expect the unexpected, but also realize that the unexpected can often be good.

Let It Go.
Holidays often drum up a lot of family baggage and unnecessary drama. Accepting your family for who they are and how they act, and learning to let things go, will do a lot as far as reducing stress. Some things just don’t change, and the best way to deal with these challenges is to accept them and move on, as difficult as that may be.

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