Minimize and Manage Holiday Stress

Posted: December 12, 2011

Stress and depression can occur at any time in our lives. For many people, they occur during the winter months and around the holidays. There are many causes, including too many expectations, too many responsibilities, and commercialization of the season.

Being patient and realistic, planning ahead and seeking support can help prevent unnecessary stress. Below are some tips to prevent holiday stress from Kelly Nix, West Virginia University Extension Family Life Specialist.

 1. Recognize how you deal with stress. Determine if you are relying on unhealthy behaviors like smoking or eating to manage stress. Is this a behavior you rely on year- round, or is it specific to holiday stress?
     2. Take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself during the holiday season helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with stress. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Acknowledge your feelings. Engage in holiday activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Eat healthy. Make sure you get enough rest and sleep. Make time for yourself.
     3. Manage your finances. Decide how much money you can afford to spend on gifts and other items before you go shopping. If possible, donate to a charity in someone’s name, give homemade gifts, or start a family gift exchange in place of spending more than you can afford on gifts for everyone.
     4. Learn to say no. More times than not, people will understand if you can’t accept a certain project or attend an event. If you say yes only to the things you want to and should do, you will feel less resentful, bitter, and overwhelmed.
     5. Ask for support. Accepting help from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens your resilience and ability to manage stress. Use the holidays to reconnect with friends and family. Strengthen your support network. If you feel overwhelmed by stress, then consider seeking professional help. Psychologists are uniquely trained to understand the connection between the mind and body. They can offer strategies to help you manage stress, change unhealthy behaviors, and address emotional issues.
     6. Change one behavior at a time. Unhealthy behaviors develop over time. Replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones doesn’t happen overnight. Start small and focus on changing one behavior.
Karen Thomas is a family and consumer sciences educator for Penn State Cooperative Extension in Lackawanna County