Stress -- Coping with the Holidays

Most often, the holidays are a time of happiness and sharing, but for many people, the holidays can be a particularly challenging time. For some it is simply the hustle and bustle of the season that causes stress. For others the season may be a time of loneliness and reflection on the past that leaves them "Blue." And this year, others may be dealing with emotions and feelings brought on by recent terrorist events.

Many factors can cause the "holiday blues," including stress, anxiety, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over commercialization of the holiday itself, financial constraints, and not being able to be with friends and loved ones. 

The demands of shopping, partying, traveling to be with family, and hosting guests in your home can also create tension. 

People may cope with this stress by eating more, or obsessing about weight and food. Others become tense, which can lead to headaches, a stiff neck, high blood pressure, an upset stomach, difficulty sleeping, or a variety of other health concerns. Some people experience symptoms of anxiety or depression. Even more people experience post-holiday blues -- feeling let down after the holidays have past. 

Key ingredients to staying healthy and managing stress during the holidays include exercise, good nutrition, a positive attitude, time management, relaxation, and laughter. Here are some additional tips to keep you emotionally grounded during the holidays: 

  • Plan ahead and keep realistic goals for your holiday season.  Try to get some of the tasks you hope to accomplish completed before the holiday rush. Get organized by making a list of all the things that need to be done. Spread your celebration out. Remember it is the holiday season and not all activities have to take place on one day. 
  • Get support. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Look for people or services that can give support. Reach out to new friends or others that can be support for you. 
  • Cut back on spending. Eliminate stress on the family budget by buying throughout the year. Watch for sales and buy when items are on sale. Avoid impulse buying by planning ahead. Budget the amount to spend on each gift and stick to it. During the holiday season try to enjoy activities that are free. Drive around and look at the holiday decorations, play outside with your children, enjoy some of the holiday classics on television. 
  • Focus on the season. Remember to focus on the reason you are celebrating the season rather than all of the activities and gift giving. Also, remember that the holidays don't mean that feeling sad and lonely are not allowed. You can have these feelings and still enjoy your holiday. 
  • Don't look back at yesteryear. Try to look to the future and savor this time in your life. Don't focus on the "good ol' days" and forget the times you are celebrating today. You may want to try something new this holiday season -- start your own special holiday tradition that can help you move forward. 
  • Help someone else. Volunteer to do something nice for someone else. 
  • Avoid excessive drinking. Too much alcohol will only intensify your feelings of loneliness and stress. 
  • Take time for you.- Put the brakes on the busy holiday season and give yourself time to unwind.
Many times, holiday stress can be reduced by following some of these suggestions. However, if your feelings begin to influence every part of your life, or if you are seriously depressed, talk with your doctor.

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