Tips to Help Manage Holiday Stress

The holiday season is a time filled with excitement and special traditions. But it also brings a chaotic cluster of demands which can leave many feeling overwhelmed, out of sync, or even lonely. Baking, shopping, cleaning, decorating, wrapping, traveling…it can all add up to quite the list of things to do! It’s important to take a little time to regain control and balance. Here are some key things you can do to stay mentally and physically healthy throughout this busy holiday season.

Make a realistic plan. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting with family and friends, and other activities. Plan your menu and make a shopping list before you go to the store. This will help prevent last-minute scrambling for forgotten items. And if you need help with food or party prep, delegate and line up your helpers in advance.
It’s also important to remember that the holidays do not have to be perfect, or exactly the same as last year. As families grow and change, traditions and rituals can change too. Focus on a few favorite customs to enjoy if others are no longer possible.

Set a budget and stick to it by learning to say no. Before you even go shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Gifts can be the main expense for many during the holiday season, but don’t forget to account for the cost of holiday meals, any wrapping or decor supplies, and any travel costs. If you are nervous about your budget, there are easy ways to save. Try homemade gifts instead or start a family gift exchange.

When your established plan or budget is in jeopardy, it’s important to say no. Overcommitting or overspending will only leave you resentful or overwhelmed later. Your family and friends will understand if you can’t be there for everything.

Acknowledge your feelings and set aside differences. Gathering with loved ones might be the most common holiday tradition. This positive practice can inadvertently be a negative reminder for some by pointing out those that couldn’t be with you this year. If a loved one has recently died or can’t be with you this year, it’s okay to feel sadness and grief. In fact, it’s absolutely normal. Take time to express your feelings. Next, reach out if you feel lonely or need support. Surrounding yourself with family and friends through social or religious gatherings is a great defense. Volunteering with others is also a great way to meet new people and spread cheer. If these feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, or sadness persist and you can’t sleep or motivate yourself to do routine chores, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

And if you are surrounded by family and old friends and your personality doesn’t really mesh with a few people, try to set aside any differences you may have. Do your best to accept family members and friends as they are. Set aside grievances for a more appropriate time.

Think positive and take time for you. When stressed, it’s that much harder to stop and regroup even though it’s what your body really needs. If holiday plans are getting too overwhelming, simply take a break. Even if you can only achieve 15 minutes of quiet, alone time – do it. Go for a walk, listen to soft music, work out, get a massage, or read a book. Recharge and then move forward with a better attitude. And when all else fails, just do less and enjoy more. The memories with loved ones are the whole point, not ribbons or fancy meals.

Don’t abandon your healthy habits. Amidst the carols, treats, and shopping, don’t forget the simple things – like eating breakfast and getting enough sleep each night. Keep time for exercise in your daily plan and enjoy special holiday treats in moderation. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t over indulge or bring a healthy food option to contribute. By sticking to your health routine as much as possible during the holidays, you won’t feel like you have to start over come January.

The holidays can be peaceful and enjoyable with a little planning and positive thinking. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers and delegate tasks so all the prep doesn’t become a burden. You can survive the frenzy! Just remember the reason for the season and hold loved ones close. Happy holidays from Medical Associates!



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