7 Ways to Cope with Holiday Stress - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on December 10, 2015

7 Ways to Cope with Holiday Stress

7 Ways to Cope with Holiday Stress

Holiday stress can put a damper on an
otherwise joyous season.

As joyous and fun as the holiday season can be, for many it can cause a lot of stress. Wanting to buy every friend and family member the “perfect” gift, trying to attend every holiday gathering you’re invited to, hosting a party, meeting end-of-year deadlines at work, traffic, spending, crowds and more – they can each individually cause stress.

When all of those elements are combined in a span of just a few weeks, it can put a damper on the season and cloud your ability to remember what the holidays are about. Plus, stress has a negative impact on your overall health. It can cause muscle tension, headaches, chest pain, an upset stomach and sleep issues. Stress can also affect your mood as well as trigger depression, anxiety, anger, irritability and restlessness, which seems like a recipe to turn you into a Scrooge. Stress has also been associated with under and overeating, tobacco use, drug or alcohol abuse, angry outbursts and social withdrawal.

Here are tips to keep your stress levels down and, thus, help you more thoroughly enjoy the spirit of the season.

1. Be Realistic with Yourself

It may be easy to get hung up on making your gifts, parties, decorations and traditions perfect – you want this time of the year to be special for your loved ones. You may also want to try to maintain the traditions you’ve had with your family and friends. However, when families grow and change, sometimes traditions and rituals may need to change as well. Choose a few traditions to hold on to and have fun creating new ones.

2. Create a Budget and Stick to It

Before you start shopping for gifts and holiday meals, decide how much money you can afford to spend. And then stick to this budget – you will rest easier when your credit card bill arrives a month later. You don’t have to buy a ton of pricy gifts to make your loved ones happy. Plus, there are some ways you may be able to give a meaningful gift without spending a fortune – donate to a charity in your loved one’s name or start a family gift exchange to cut down on the amount of gifts everyone has to purchase.

3. Plan Ahead

Since there are only a few weeks to get ready for the holidays, you only have a little bit of time to get all of the shopping, baking, cooking and more done. Look at your calendar and set aside specific days to get those tasks done and checked off of your to-do list. You can also plan your holiday dinner menus and make your shopping list at this time. Scheduling everything out and knowing exactly what you need to get can help prevent you from scrambling at the last minute to buy forgotten gifts or ingredients.

4. Know that it’s Ok to Say “No”

Spreading yourself too thin during the holidays can send your stress level soaring. Plus, if you’re saying yes when you believe you should say no, you could end up feeling overwhelmed and resentful. Your friends, family and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every activity or gathering.

5. Maintain Your Healthy Habits

Overindulgence and a lack of physical inactivity can add to your holiday stress and guilt. Make sure you’re making time to keep yourself healthy by getting plenty of sleep, incorporating physical activity into your daily routine and have healthy snacks before holiday gatherings so you don’t go overboard on food and drinks.

6. Take a Breather if You Need It

Similar to your healthy habits, make sure you’re making time for yourself, even if it’s even for just 15 minutes. Set aside time to be alone without any distractions to read, listen to soothing music, get a massage, go for a walk or anything else you enjoy doing for yourself – find something for yourself that reduces your stress, clears your mind, slows your breathing and restores your inner calm.

7. Seek Professional Help

Even if you’ve tried to lower your stress level, you may still feel persistently anxious or sad. You may also trouble sleeping, feel hopeless or irritable, experience physical side effects of stress and feel unable to face your to-do list. If you have any of these feelings and if they persist for a while, they may be more than holiday stress – they may be a sign that you could benefit from seeing your doctor or mental health professional.

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