Family Health

A Few Tips for Fighting Holiday Stress

For many people, the holidays bring weeks of anxiety for just a few days of celebration. Here are some tips to relieve some of holiday stress and recapture the magic of these special days.

Stay Healthy

The single best thing you can do is simple: Take care of yourself. Any stress, whether holiday-derived or not, intensifies when your body isn't operating at its full potential. Here are some basic healthy practices you should employ not only for the holidays, but year-round:

  • Drinking often part of a celebration, but avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Good food will be all around you, but don't go overboard. Selecting smaller portions and avoiding seconds -- especially desserts -- will make a huge difference. Remember to drink plenty of water, too.
  • If you exercise, make time to keep up with your routine. If you don't work out regularly, walking is a simple but excellent start.
  • Regular, good sleep is essential to good health.
  • Keep up with prescribed medications, and don't cancel important medical appointments.
  • Listen to your body. When it tells you it's thirsty or tired, it means it. Pay attention.

Keep a Positive Mind and Spirit

Holiday stress is often driven by physical fatigue, and while taking care of your body is essential, don't forget to take care of your mental and spiritual health. The holidays might bring sad memories of times spent with friends or family now gone, but these nostalgic feelings are normal. Here's what you can do to keep up your holiday spirit:

  • Rather than lamenting the past or worrying over the future, live for the present.
  • Emphasize the positive elements in your life.
  • Avoid putting everyone else's feelings and needs above your own.
  • Learn breathing exercises.
  • In the midst of all the chaos, take a yoga class.
  • If you are a person of faith, focus on the spiritual meaning of the holidays.

Think of Others ... But Remember That You Come First

A major source of holiday stress is the time and attention you focus on friends and family. It's not all about them, and love needs to be shared, so follow these tips to find the right balance between yourself and your loved ones:

  • Ask others to contribute prepared dishes for your holiday get-together.
  • Cut back on gifts and cards; think only of your closest friends and family.
  • Accept any useful help offered.
  • Refuse requests for time you don't have.
  • Don't make promises that become a nightmare to keep.
  • Be forgiving and patient with relatives who might be difficult to get along with.

Simplify Holiday Tasks

Do you have challenging to-do lists scattered everywhere? Careful advance planning will make a world of difference in coping with holiday stress. Don't forget to:

  • Set realistic goals and stay focused.
  • At the same time, be flexible when needed.
  • Devise a holiday budget, and keep it simple yet specific.
  • Shop in advance whenever possible.
  • Avoid shopping when everybody else does; the earlier the better.
  • Purchase gifts online.
  • Precook and freeze holiday foods.

Pulling It All Together

Practicing just some of these tips is bound to help. In the end, the holidays are about the joy and love in your life. You can recapture that spirit by practicing it yourself. Here are some overall tips for finding the right focus:

  • Ease up on yourself and others.
  • Practice humility, and accept that you aren't perfect.
  • Lower your expectations. Being with those you love is the ultimate gift and the only one you really need.
  • Set aside a few moments every day, and one day every week, just for yourself. During those moments, find something you enjoy or that brings you comfort. You deserve it!

Holiday stress is normal, but if you find yourself unable to find joy to the extent that it interferes with your daily life, consider seeking help. The best place to start is with a visit to your primary health care provider.

Posted in Family Health

Since retiring from a career as a medical, geriatric, and public social worker, Charles Hooper has published hundreds of articles and blog posts on a variety of topics, including health and medicine, politics and government, and advocacy. Charles graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master's degree in social work. He received an Outstanding Scholar award and graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where he majored in sociology and political science.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.