Tips for coping with holiday stress
"I'm a wreck! I've got to cook and clean and decorate for nine houseguests, my mother's going to criticize me, the malls are crowded and how will I pay for it all?”
The holidays aren't always "the Season to be Jolly." We can feel overwhelmed with obligations. Family get-togethers can be fraught with conflicts. Shopping can be stressful. Traveling can be challenging for many people. You may overeat or over-drink and then feel guilty about it. If you’re not sharing the season with loved ones, you may feel lonely and sad.
The stresses of the holiday can trigger depression and anxiety. But planning, taking care of yourself and setting realistic goals can help you cope and enjoy the season.
Keep your expectations reasonable
Christmases past weren't perfect and this one won’t be, either. But it will be an enjoyable experience in its own way. Don't worry about buying the perfect gift, creating the perfect meal or decorating the perfect home. (Martha Stewart has help.) Your family will remember the simple things.
Take care of yourself
- Schedule time out for yourself to do something relaxing and enjoyable. Have coffee with a friend, take a long walk, curl up with a good book for awhile.
- Have a healthy snack before parties and try to focus more on the vegetable platter than the fudge.
- Get plenty of sleep and exercise.
- These stress-busters are especially important now.
Keep your work load manageable
Make traveling easier
- If you’re anxious about taking a road trip, plan your route in advance and have maps on hand.
- If you practice safe driving habits, the chance of an accident is very small. By driving at night, you can avoid traffic, but be sure you are rested.
- Traveling by air? Make sure you have current information about baggage and other regulations.
- Check the FAA web site. Schedule your flight for off-peak times to avoid crowds.
- Bring along a music or an audio book to keep you distracted.
Try to get along with Dad and Aunt Mary
Try to set aside resentments and accept troublesome relatives, warts and all. Everyone's feeling the holiday stress and there will be a better time to discuss conflicts. If conversation begins to get heated, let them know you heard what they said and that their feelings matter, and try not to judge. Change the subject when necessary.
Enjoy those holiday parties
Does thinking about talking to people and being surrounded by a crowd bring on an anxiety attack?
- Go easy on yourself. Lots of people feel intimidated at parties.
- Keep your alcohol to a minimum; it can increase anxiety.
- Take some time to relax before the event.
- Arrive a little later and leave early if you need to
- Try to start a conversation with just two people. Make small talk and ask casual questions that will engage them in the conversation
- Then say, "I enjoyed talking with you. I'm going to make the rounds, now."
Watch your spending
- Look for free holiday activities in your community. Check the papers or the Web.
- Make paper snowflakes, enjoy holiday lighting displays or decorate cookies with your children.
- A personal, well-chosen gift will show you care more than the most expensive one.
- Make a budget and stick to it. Don't let those colorful ads tempt you to overspend.
- Suggest family members draw names instead of buying gifts for everyone.
- Enjoy the holiday, even if you're by yourself
- Many people find themselves without family for the holidays.
- Talk with friends and coworkers to see if others who don't have plans would like to join you. Host a potluck or invite guests to join in preparing a meal.
- Volunteer your time for those who could use your help. It's a good way to lift your spirits and meet people too.
- It's normal to feel sadness. Talk it out with someone you're comfortable with.
- Schedule time with people you enjoy. Make some new friends or reconnect with those you've been out of touch with.