Tips to reduce stress during the holidays |

Tips to reduce stress during the holidays

Ann Galloway, PhD, NP-C
Grand River Student Health Center, Parachute
Ann Galloway
Staff Photo |

The holiday season is here and ‘tis the season to be jolly.

But what if you don’t feel jolly? What if the holidays bring more stress than peace and joy? Let’s face it, the holidays can be very stressful even when it is good stress.

There are many demands placed on all of us during the holidays: shopping, parties, decorating, entertaining, baking, and cooking, to name just a few. So what can be done to prevent feeling stressed during the holidays?

Here are 10 practical tips from the Mayo Clinic to help minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays:

1. Reach out – If you are lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. Volunteer your time to help others. It is a great way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.

2. Be realistic – Everyone wants the perfect Hallmark holiday, but is that realistic? Traditions and rituals often change as families change and grow. Being realistic in your expectations of yourself and others will decrease potential stress.

3. Don’t overspend – Decide how much money you can afford to spend before you go shopping and don’t go over that limit. It’s not about the presents; it’s about your presence. Try alternatives to spending lots of money such as donating to a charity, giving homemade gifts or starting a family gift exchange.

4. Continue healthy habits – Don’t stop exercising or eating healthy just because it is the holiday season. This can add stress and guilt to the season (and after) which are not healthy. Be sure to incorporate regular physical activity every day, get plenty of sleep and go easy on the sweets, alcohol and fats. A helpful suggestion is to have a healthy snack before holiday parties so you don’t go overboard on food and drink.

5. Plan ahead – Plan menus and then make a shopping list. Avoid shopping at peak times when malls and stores are packed. Do most of the party prep ahead of time.

6. Set aside differences – Learn to forgive and accept those relatives or friends that don’t live up to your expectations. Set aside grievances and if things get uncomfortable, go for a walk or a drive and work on an “attitude adjustment.”

7. Acknowledge your feelings – It is normal to feel sadness and grief if you have recently lost a loved one or can’t be with those people who are special to you. You can’t force happiness. It is alright to express your feelings. And be aware of “post-holiday syndrome” which is a feeling of let down when the hustle and bustle of the holidays stop. Ease out of all the fun by planning a rest day toward the end of the season.

8. Learn to say no – Taking on too many tasks or over-scheduling yourself can lead to fatigue which can dampen your spirits. Saying “yes” when you should say “no” can lead to resentment and feeling overwhelmed. Delegate tasks to others as much as possible and manage your time wisely.

9. Take care of yourself – Spend time alone, without distractions. Clearing your mind and slowing your breathing will help prevent or reduce stress by restoring inner calm. Some people find relaxation in meditation, reading, exercising, listening to soothing music or getting a massage.

10. Get professional help if you need it – If feelings of sadness or anxiety linger, if you are unable to sleep, feel irritable and hopeless for a while, consult your primary care provider or a mental health professional.

Don’t let the holiday season be a time of dread. Following these 10 tips will help prevent feeling stressed during the holidays and beyond. And hopefully, you will find peace, joy and love this season that continues into the new year.

Ann Galloway is a certified family nurse practitioner at the Grand River Student Health Center in Parachute. She can be at 970-285-5719.

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