How to Reduce Stress over the Holidays

The holidays are known for being a time of joy and excitement, but for others, the holidays can be exceptionally stressful. Between shopping for gifts, attending holiday parties, and entertaining guests, this time of year can rapidly become a handful.  According to the American Psychological Association, 8 out of 10 people anticipate increased stress over the holiday season, but that doesn’t have to be the case. In order to minimize any unwanted emotions this holiday season, I’ve compiled a few strategies that you can utilize. Keep track of your spending. When it comes to the holidays, spending is unavoidable. While you’re purchasing gifts for your friends, children, spouse, or loved ones, you can spend hundreds of extra dollars that you didn’t plan on losing, resulting in even more stress. Although it may be difficult to avoid spending all together, you can control the amount of money that you spend during the holidays. One thing to keep in mind is that your holiday spending should never prevent you from being able to pay your bills. Many people turn to credit cards for the extra funds, but only end up with more stress later in the year when that holiday spending is delivered to them in the form of a bill. When it comes to spending during the holidays, create a budget, and stick to it. Reducing the financial burden that the holidays bring will greatly lower your holiday stress. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Often times, between taking care of guests, and purchasing gifts for others, it can be hard to remember to take care of yourself. People can become so caught up in the holiday season that they overbook themselves with holiday parties and social gatherings, then lose sight of activities like exercise or alone time. Being able to say no to overcrowding your schedule and saying yes to taking some time to yourself can be one of the most effective ways to reduce holiday stress. Being able to take time for yourself to do activities that you enjoy and get in some vigorous exercise will prepare you for any social gatherings that may be on the horizon. Avoid family arguments. For some, having to be in close proximity to family members can be stressful enough, but when you factor in differing personalities and opinions, it can add up to some arguments that really get the anxiety flowing. In order to save yourself the headache, learn to pick your battles. Before you make a comment about a remark that got under your skin, think about if saying something will really improve the situation or just cause more stress amongst you. Sometimes it is better to just internally agree to disagree and refuse to let the words or actions of others ruin the joy of the holidays. Always remember, if you can’t find relief in self-care strategies like these, speak to a doctor or mental health counselor that you trust; this professional may be able to improve your situation, or give you new strategies to cope with stress and keep you smiling all season long.

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Dr. Cindy Nelson is a graduate of Texas Woman’s University and has been a practicing family and marriage therapist since 2001. She specializes in: grief counseling, relationship issues, trauma recovery, depression, help with transitions and major life changes.