Six Tips for Managing Holiday Stress
Why, when the holiday season is supposed to be such a special time of year, do the words "holiday" and "stress" seem to go hand in hand? Some holiday stresses are unavoidable -- shopping malls are crowded, traffic is slow, schedules are packed. We may bring on some holiday stress ourselves, though. We so want the holidays to be perfect that we can be too hard on ourselves, and lose sight of what's most important. Try the following suggestions to fill your holidays -- and the rest of the year -- with less stress and more joy.
- Let it go.
It's great to be in control. We all need to take responsibility for our actions and do our best to make the right choices. Sometimes, though, life happens. Your sister's plans change at the last minute, your 6-year-old gets the flu, or the roast you marinated for two days ends up burned on the outside and raw in the center. Remember that sometimes all you can control is your own reaction. Take a breath and do your best to handle the unexpected with grace.
- Keep your sense of humor.
Think back to that road trip gone wrong -- the one where traffic was insane and the gas station restrooms were, to put it politely, not well maintained. With luck, your strongest memories of that trip are of the ridiculous joke that surfaced in hour three and seemed to keep getting funnier with each hour of traffic. Humor helps us look at stressful situations in a more positive way. Besides, it's just more fun to laugh than to complain.
- Take care of yourself.
In the midst of a busy schedule, healthy habits often seem like too much trouble. You know, though, that you'll enjoy your holidays more if you eat right and keep up your exercise routine. Balance holiday treats with plenty of fresh fruit and veggies, and make time for walks with friends or workouts at the gym. You need downtime more than ever, so let yourself hide away with a great book or just take a nap.
- Look for ways to help others.
You need all the help you can get, right? Helping others, though, will make you feel better than focusing on your own worries. Volunteering for a community project or helping a friend in need will put your problems in perspective. Besides, the friendships you nurture will support you through your own good and bad times.
- Remember the importance of family.
The most important people in your life deserve your attention more than anything else. Share your family traditions with your kids, and start some new ones with parents and grandparents. This is a great time to move past old hurts and conflicts. Pick up the phone and just let family members know you care.
- Practice gratitude.
Gratitude makes us feel better about our lives, our relationships and ourselves. Although some people seem to come by a grateful spirit naturally, we can all get better at it. Try spending a few minutes before bed, or with your family at dinner, taking stock of the day's kindnesses and unexpected pleasures. Or, just make it a habit to say thank you for those good deeds that make you smile.
A special note for parents: Children hold a special place in our holiday planning. We imagine the look of pure joy when our child opens the perfect gift, and worry about the disappointment of a lean holiday celebration. It may be hard to remember when you're faced with a multi-page wish list, but you can give your children a valuable gift by helping them to focus on what's truly important about the season, too. Model the values of humor, generosity and gratitude and you'll help your kids truly enjoy the holidays.
We can't promise you shorter lines, a cleaner house or a lower credit card bill this holiday season. We hope, though, that these simple suggestions will make it a little easier to savor special moments with the people you love.
Date reviewed: 10/26/12
Reviewer: Jay Butterman, D.O.
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