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Ask a Specialist: How to Handle Holiday Stress

November 21, 2018

Q: As the holiday season approaches, what are some things I can do to stay relaxed and manage my stress?

The holiday season is for spending time with family, expressing gratitude, and celebrating together, but that doesn’t mean preparing for gatherings and last-minute holiday shopping doesn’t generate some stress.

Many people struggle with feeling that they don’t have enough time to complete all their tasks. One way to combat this stressor is to take advantage of being surrounded by family and delegate certain tasks among them. That way, you involve your family and prepare for the celebration together. For example, you can divide the gift-giving list and shop together, or ask your family to cook some of the dishes.

During this time, people are stepping away from work, and we see an increase in crowds at shopping malls and restaurants. It is important to prepare yourself before going out, remembering that lines are going to be long. If you have anxiety about crowds, it might be helpful to use some headphones to play relaxing music or calming mantras into one ear. Try to remain present with yourself during those times of high anxiety.

It's important to practice gratitude regardless of what time of year it is, but especially during the holidays. Remember to take a step back, have patience, and be present in the moment. In addition to remembering the things you’re thankful for, make sure you’re taking time for yourself amidst the holiday stress to do something you really enjoy.

 

Managing High Expectations

Holidays can be especially difficult for those who have struggled with mood disorders, such as depression, or who are grieving the loss of a loved one. There is an unspoken expectation to be joyous during this time, and it can be disappointing when your temperament does not measure up.

To cope, make sure you’re spending time with people you enjoy who give you energy. Surround yourself with your community, and devote some time to it. Volunteer to serve dinner at a homeless shelter or take toys to children in need. If you’ve lost someone, you can certainly do that in memory of that person. Give your happiness to others to gain it back yourself. 

Julie Manuel, MSEd, LPCC, NCC

 

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