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Dealing with Holiday Stress
The holidays are almost here, and they bring lots of things, including stress. As many as 69 percent of Americans feel stressed and/or depressed during the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, according to the American Psychological Association. Most are stressed by feeling that they don’t have the time and/or the money this crazy season can seem to demand. The Mayo Clinic has some suggestions for reducing the stress and focusing on the meaning of the season.
First, recognize that the holidays are not happy for everyone. If you have recently suffered a loss or if you are alone during the season, you can feel sad instead of happy. That is normal, and you should acknowledge it rather than try to deny it.
If you are lonely or sad – or even if you are not – reach out during the season. Attend a community event or volunteer. It could help you make new connections and lift your spirits by doing good.
Don’t have unrealistic expectations. The holidays are not about the perfect meal or the most impressive gift. They are about celebrating with the ones you love. And how that happens can change as families and friends marry, move, etc. Be flexible about adapting your traditions to this new reality, and about starting new traditions.
Try to get along. You probably have a friend or relative who can drive you nuts, especially when you are already under stress. Try to accept people the way they are. And if you need to, engage a spouse or friend to rescue you when your aunt decides it’s time once again to discuss your cooking flaws or to show you photos of her cat.
Make a budget – and stick to it. You can make your holiday money go further by making lists, shopping sales or making things yourself.
Plan your days. Know when you are going to go shopping, when you are going to prep food, etc. That will help keep you from letting everything slide to the very end. If you are hosting, make sure you have or can borrow things like chairs, serving dishes, etc. Spread the responsibilities around; when someone asks if they can bring something to dinner, say yes.
But also be able to say no. There are only so many days, and so many hours in each day. In addition, you might have additional work responsibilities as year-end nears. So be honest with yourself and with others about what it is possible for you to do. And don’t feel guilty.
Stay healthy. Keep to an exercise routine and a sensible diet. Don’t overindulge in unhealthy eating or drinking. And get enough sleep.
Take time for yourself, even if it is just taking a walk around the block or a long bubble bath. Stress begets stress, so do something to relax before you start again.
If you still feel sad or depressed during the holidays – especially if you can’t sleep or focus, or if you are unusually anxious – seek professional help from a doctor or mental health professional.