Tools for Managing Holiday Stress

When it comes to stress, you might already have some tools in your belt. Holiday stress is largely the same as everyday stress, but there are some differences. Many people who handle their stress and anxiety well all year might feel very overwhelmed when the holiday season approaches. Having some ideas in mind to combat stress and manage it until the holidays are over can be helpful. Check out these tips for keeping holiday stress under control.


1. Get Enough Rest

With holiday parties, extra time spent running errands, and late-night holiday specials on cable channels, it’s no wonder that you might feel sleep-deprived during the holiday season. Not getting adequate sleep is a recipe for disaster when it comes to holiday stress and anxiety, though. Adults need seven or eight hours of sleep each night, and adolescents need about nine. Figure out how you can reach that goal, whether that means going to bed earlier or catching a quick nap before dinner. If you do need to cut back on sleep for a night or two, try to catch up within a few days.


2. Avoid Over-Scheduling Yourself

It is easy to say yes to too many obligations during the holiday season. Rather than risk over-scheduling yourself, take a good look at your calendar and see where you already have plans. Mark those down and also indicate where you might have time to make more plans. If someone asks you to do something on a day when you already have something to do, either suggest doing it when you have free time or just say no. It isn’t worth the stress to try to do everything. Remember, you can see people and places after the holidays are over!


3. Create a Reasonable Budget

If the idea of holiday spending is making you feel stressed, take a look at your bank balance and income to create a good budget. Decide how much you will spend on gifts, decorations, and food… and stick to it. Try to avoid charging holiday expenses, as this will prolong your stress when you receive big bills to pay off in January. It is better to have a smaller, less extravagant holiday than to worry about payments for several months into the new year.


4. Get Outdoors Each Day

With the sun rising later and setting earlier this time of year, it’s not uncommon to feel stressed, anxious, and even depressed due to a lack of sunlight. This is called seasonal affective disorder and it affects millions of people living in the northern hemisphere this time of year. One way to combat it is to spend some time outdoors each day in the natural sunlight. You can even do this on cloudy, rainy, or snowy days. Bundle up and go for a 10-minute walk on your lunch break; you might be surprised at how good it makes you feel!


5. Stick to Your Regular Diet

With holiday delicacies at every turn, it can be difficult to stick to your regular diet. While you should go ahead and indulge (in moderation!) at holiday gatherings and when special foods are available, make every effort to keep the rest of your diet the same as usual. Eat fruit with your breakfast and enjoy salads or vegetables with lean protein and whole grains at lunch if you know that you will be eating a heavy dinner, for example. This will keep your blood sugar (and therefore your moods) at a more even keel and it will also reduce anxiety associated with weight gain.


6. Decrease Holiday Stress With Exercise 

Exercise is known to decrease both anxiety and depression, so don’t forget to get some each day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults get a minimum of 30 minutes of heart-healthy physical activity each day. This can be broken up into several sessions, so a quick walk at lunch, some time spent shopping at the mall, and maybe a physical game after dinner will add up quickly.


7. Take Advantage of Online Shopping

Speaking of shopping malls, does the idea of going into an over-heated, crowded store make your heart pick up its pace? Don’t feel guilty about harnessing the power of the internet when it comes to shopping. Choose your gifts at any online store, have them shipped to their recipients, and be glad that the chore is done. You might also be able to arrange for grocery delivery. Even if this isn’t something you normally do, knowing that the ingredients for dinner will show up without you having to brave the grocery store parking lot can take some stress off of your plate.


8. Take Shortcuts Where Feasible

Think about the decorating and cooking that you plan on doing this holiday season. What holiday tasks do you enjoy, and which ones do you dread? Don’t worry about cutting out the traditions that you don’t want to carry on any longer. You can also look for ways to make complicated recipes more convenient and ways to spend less time and money decorating if that is something you don’t particularly enjoy. Remember, it’s your holiday, so spend it the way you want to!


9. Spend Time With Loved Ones – Or Don’t

The last tip is to take control of where and with whom you are spending your time. If you have a loving, healthy relationship with your extended family, then by all means, revel in the togetherness that is possible during the holiday season. If, however, the idea of visiting your extended family makes you feel ill with stress, consider simply opting out. You might choose to spend your day volunteering or having dinner with close friends, and that is okay. You have to take care of your own mental health needs, and in some families, that means avoiding the holiday get-togethers on a temporary or permanent basis. You can always visit people at another time if that works out better for you.



If you are having trouble managing your holiday stress, talk to your doctor about getting a referral to see a counselor who can help. There is no need to dread the holidays. Learning to manage your stress this year can lead to happier holidays in the future.


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