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10 Tips for Combatting Holiday Stress

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/25/2006 | Self Improvement
Ah... the holidays! It's a wonderful time for family togetherness, bonding with friends and loved ones and sharing activities done only once a year, such as baking cookies and decorating the yard. Yes?

Actually, the answer for many people is a resounding "no." Many people feel a great deal of stress during the holiday season.

So Why Are We So Stressed at Holiday Time?

There can be many reasons why we feel stressed at what should be the happiest times of year. Here are a few:

  • First of all, there's a lot more to do around the holidays. Entertaining, shopping for gifts, attending special functions, and accommodating out of town visitors are just a few of the tasks you may be trying to add into an already busy lifestyle.

  • Secondly, losses can revive intense feelings during the holidays. People who are separated or divorced may be angry or sad about the changes in--or absence of--family traditions. Someone who has lost a parent or spouse may mourn that death all over again at the holidays. Parents whose children have grown up and moved away may fiercely miss the joyous excitement a child brings to a holiday. When you're feeling this way, having to "put on a happy face" with the rest of the world can be truly tough.

  • All change is stressful, even if you view it as a "good" change, such as spending more time with family and exchanging gifts. The bottom line is that you're forced to make changes in your regular routine, sometimes for a period of several weeks, and that can be stressful.

These are just a few of the things that can lead to holiday stress. You will certainly think of more. So, can anything be done to prevent the holidays from becoming a time for anxiety, frustration, and "the blues" for you and your loved ones?

The answer to that question is yes, definitely. Let's take a look...

10 Quick Holiday Stress-Busting Tips

  1. Make time for exercise. Exercise is a great stress-buster. Studies have shown that vigorous exercise--even walking or dancing--produces endorphins in your body. Endorphins are proteins that stimulate pleasurable feelings. So, if you're already in the habit of exercising daily, keep it up! If you're not, then try to make time--even if just 15 to 30 minutes a day--to be active.

  2. Get plenty of rest. Stress is hard on your body, as well as your mind. Replenish your energy resources by getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, minimum. You'll be able to face tomorrow easier if you get enough rest tonight.

  3. Learn to take mini-breaks periodically during the day. When the feelings of stress start to mount--or you see them coming--STOP! Stop whatever you're doing (even if just for a minute or two), close your eyes, and take 3 deep breaths. Breathe in to a slow count of 5 and then out to a slow count of 5. Repeat as needed. Open your eyes, and try to smile. When we smile, it often makes us feel lighter, at least for a few moments.

  4. Make time at the end and beginning of each day to review your goals and make a "to-do" list. Try to pull together short lists of the 6 to 10 most important things you need to get accomplished that day. Knowing precisely what needs to be done and then being able to check each task off as accomplished can go a long way towards helping you feel in control. And that can prevent stress too.

  5. Schedule "down time" into each day. This is time just for you. It doesn't have to be a lot of time. Even a half hour of time when you don't have to answer to anyone else can be invaluable. Use this time to do whatever helps you relax most. Some people like to listen to music. Others enjoy reading. Social animals may enjoy chatting with friends or family on the telephone or over the Internet. You might find that writing in your journal or diary helps relieve stress. Whatever works for you, just make sure you do it each day!

  6. Build cushion time into your day. Very few of us have totally predictable schedules every day. During the holidays, this can get even worse... traffic tie ups, unexpected demands at work and home, visitors you didn't anticipate, etc. "Plan" for these unplanned events by not scheduling every minute of your day. This will allow you to be more flexible when these events pop up.

  7. Learn to get comfortable with saying "no." Not one of us can keep functioning if we say "yes" to every request or demand made upon us. If you don't "say no" once in a while, then you're going to find yourself over-committed and over-stressed.

  8. Ask a friend or family member for a hug. This stress buster may sound kind of silly, but the truth is, we all benefit from simple human touch. And hugs have been proven to have beneficial effects. So, don't be afraid to ask for yours!

  9. Learn to accept that a certain amount of stress IS a part of everyday life. No, stress need not be overwhelming on a consistent basis. But, if you want everything in your life to go smoothly all the time, then you're setting unrealistic expectations. And that can only lead to disappointment and let down. So, anticipate some stress and just roll with the punches best you can.

  10. Don't add financial woes to your list of stressors, if you can help it. Holidays are often connected with gifts, but that doesn't mean the gifts have to be expensive purchases. Homemade gifts are often much more highly valued for the caring and effort that goes into them. Or, consider giving away a service, such as a promise of a massage or babysitting. Get creative... you can surely find many ways of giving that don't involve cleaning out your wallet or pocketbook.

So, you see, it IS possible to prevent or relieve the holiday stresses you may be facing this time of year!