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Managing The Seemingly Inevitable Holiday Season Stress

Holiday Stress? It Can Be A Thing Of The Past!

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Updated November 07, 2013

Managing The Seemingly Inevitable Holiday Season Stress

Simplifying activities and trying to really savor them are two ways of reducing holiday stress. ©iStockphoto.com

Take Shortcuts

If you can’t fathom the idea of skipping out on sending cards, baking, seeing people, and doing all of the stuff that usually runs you ragged, you may do better including all of these activities in your schedule, but on a smaller scale.

Send cards, for example, but only to those with whom you maintain regular communication. Or, don’t include a personal note or letter in each one. Find a way to simplify. The same goes for the baking -- will anyone be enraged if you buy baked goods from the bakery instead? If you find ways to cut corners or tone down the activities that are important to you and your family, you may enjoy them much more.
Read more on how to recognize and minimize holiday perfectionism.

Be Smart With Holiday Eating

During the holidays, we may want to look and feel great (especially if we're around people we don't see often--we know that this is how we'll be remembered), but there is so much temptation in the form of delicious food and decadent desserts, and a break from our regular routines--plus the addition of emotional stress--can all add up to overeating, emotional eating, and other forms of unhealthy eating. This year, plan ahead by being aware of your triggers, do what you can to have some healthy food at hand for each meal, be aware of your intake, and practice mindful eating. The resource below will provide more in-depth information on how to successfully do these things and more.
Read more on healthy holiday eating strategies.

Change Your Expectations For Togetherness

With family and friends, it’s important to be aware of your limitations. Think back to previous years and try to pinpoint how much togetherness you and your family can take before feeling negative stress. Can you limit the number of parties you attend or throw, or the time you spend at each? Can you limit your time with family to a smaller timeframe that will still feel special and joyous, without draining you?

Also, when dealing with difficult relatives, it’s okay to set limits on what you are and are not willing to do, including forgoing your visits or limiting them to every other year.
Read more on minimizing family conflict during the holidays.

For those who experience loneliness during the holidays, consider inviting a group of friends to your home. If virtually everyone you know is with family during the holidays, you might consider volunteering to help those less fortunate than yourself. Many people report these experiences to be extremely fulfilling, and your focus will be on what you have rather than what you lack.
Read more on how to cope with holiday loneliness.

Set A Schedule

Putting your plans on paper can show you, in black and white, how realistic they are. If you find a time management planner and fill in the hours with your scheduled activities, being realistic and including driving time and down time, you will be able to see if you’re trying to pack in too much. Start with your highest priorities, so you will be able to eliminate the less important activities. Be sure to schedule in some time to take a walk in nature each day if at all possible, as exercise and exposure to daylight can drastically reduce or even eliminate the symptoms of SAD. (If climate or other factors prohibit this, try to find some time to sit by a window and look out; several minutes of exposure to natural light, even if through a window pane, can help.)
Read more on how to set priorities when very busy.

Breathe!

This sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes we forget to take deep breaths and really give our bodies the oxygen we need. It's great if you can take ten minutes by yourself to do a breathing meditation, but merely stopping to take a few deep, cleansing breaths can reduce your level of negative stress in a matter of minutes, too. If you visualize that you are breathing in serenity and breathing out stress, you will find the positive effects of this exercise to be even more pronounced.
Read on for more 5-minute stress relief strategies.

Get Ongoing Stress Information

The more stress management tools you have at your disposal, the better you will be at preventing, minimizing and managing stress as it arises. Why not give yourself the gift of ongoing stress relief this year? It's free, it can enhance your health, and it can set you on a path to enjoy life more in the coming year. You can sign up to receive free weekly tools, tips, research and information on stress by subscribing to the Stress Management Weekly Newsletter, or find it daily via Facebook or Twitter. It's all free, and it's all fun. With a little planning and a few minor but significant changes, this holiday season can bring the love and joy it was meant to bring, and leave you feeling fulfilled rather than drained.

Source: American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th ed. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 1994.

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