Stressed About the Holidays? These Tips Can Help.

/ December 17, 2019

5 Tips for Coping With Holiday Stress

The holiday season is a whirlwind of gifts, meals, traditions and activities. It’s a cheerful time of year, but it can also bring feelings of sadness, loneliness and stress. Long-term stress can weaken the immune system and may lead to high blood pressure, fatigue or heart disease.  To help manage holiday stress this year, we sat down with Melissa Wilkes Donahue, director of the CONCERN a Group Employee Assistance Program. She offers the following tips to help keep stress at bay and enjoy a happier, healthier holiday season.

1. Define a Budget and Stick to It

The holiday season amplifies financial stress. With gifts, entertainment, food and travel, costs add up quickly. Create a budget that helps reduce financial stress and boosts your spending confidence.

“Make your budget and stick to it,” said Wilkes Donahue. “Folks tend to buy gifts impulsively or overextend their wallets for holiday meals. A budget helps you spend what you can afford to spend.”

Write down ways to manage money more efficiently, and keep a list of items you intend to purchase. If your holiday list exceeds your budget, shorten the list. Commit to your plan and remember what’s important — family, friends and meaningful traditions.

2. Be Respectful

Many people feel anxious to share the holidays with family, especially if strained relationships or political viewpoints make conversation difficult. While disagreements can cause stress, active listening helps diffuse tension and gives you an opportunity to re-establish a calm mindset.

“It’s important to maintain civil relationships,” said Wilkes Donahue. “Disagreement is inevitable, and conversations aren’t always easy. It’s OK to disagree with loved ones. Our beliefs and personal opinions make us unique.”

To keep the peace, consider planning fun activities that contribute to healthy relationships, such as playing a game, watching a movie or volunteering for a local charity.

3. Take Care of Yourself

You may feel pressured to accomplish an extensive to-do list, host the best party or give the perfect gifts to family members, neighbors, teachers and co-workers. When you only focus on others, you can forget to take care of yourself.

If the holiday momentum feels overwhelming, Wilkes Donahue recommends taking time for self-care. Go for a walk, read a book or simply take a few deep breaths to clear your mind and balance your emotions.

“Prioritize self-care, exercise and sleep,” said Wilkes Donahue. “When people are anxious, they don’t sleep as well as they normally do. Get at least eight hours of sleep and continue your regular exercise routine, even if you have to split up a 30-minute workout into smaller, more manageable intervals that fit within your holiday schedule.”

4. Set Realistic Expectations

No holiday celebration is perfect. Do your best to keep things in perspective.

“People try to live up to unrealistic expectations,” said Wilkes Donahue. “Maybe someone on social media shared a beautiful table spread or you found a Pinterest image you feel you must live up to. Those are unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves.”

Families change and traditions evolve with time. If a loved one passes away or adult children can’t attend the celebration, listen to your needs and do what works for you.

“We want holidays to remain the same, even when a loved one isn’t there,” said Wilkes Donahue. “A loved one’s chair may be empty this holiday. Acknowledge the holiday will be difficult and consider creating a new tradition in memory of your loved one.”

5. Ask for Support 

Understand that it is okay to ask for support.

“Be in tune with your health and the health of family members and loved ones,” said Wilkes Donahue. “You may notice something is wrong before they notice it themselves. Let them know you’re there for them. You can be a rope for someone at the bottom of the well. Get your loved one — or yourself — the counseling and resources necessary to climb out of a dark place.”

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