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Five Practical Tips to Combat Holiday Stress

Holiday stress happens when our expectations don’t match our experience. 

For instance, you come up to the mountains for snow and you get…rain!  These types of situations aren’t really stresses, just challenges. They are easily handled by two words, “Oh well” and you figure out something to do in or out of the rain.  But sometimes it’s more serious than that.  Maybe you just lost a job, your pet or a loved one just got a not so good diagnosis.  Being surrounded by jolly holiday music and festive decorations can add to your sense of “glum”.  What you’re feeling is sooo different from the world around you.   This type of gap between expectations and reality won’t go away soon like rain, but is often here to stay for a while.

So, stop.  Listen to your feelings.  Set aside time to just be, to cry or to talk to someone about what you’re feeling.  If you give the sad feelings their due every day, then there might actually be room for some inner peace. Taking time to feel can help balance the distance between what you expect and what you experience.

Most people want to feel important and included and especially during the holidays.  But what if you find yourself all alone when it seems like everyone else has someone?  This isolation can grow and grow and really make you miserable if left unchecked. So, reach out. Go to holiday events in your town and let your senses roam...what do you smell, see, hear?  Look for free concerts and notice the lights and holiday decorations. Really experience the moment.  Better yet, join a social group, a church or temple and ask how you can help out. Volunteering is a great way to get connected.   One year I was getting really sad and blue about being far away from loved ones.  When I told my mom, she told me to go buy a toy, wrap it and drop it off at Toys for Tots.  It worked and I started feeling better. 

Some people have the opposite problem, their stress comes from  having too much to do and no time. Time pressure is a MAJOR cause of stress during the holidays. There’s way too much to do and way too little time to do it during the holidays.  So, pick and choose and be mindful about what you take on. If you can’t say no, hire a no agent who will say no for you!  Just joking!  

Ritual is a wonderful part of the holidays but it can also become a big “should”.  We have to do the holidays the same way we did last year.  But people change over time and their needs change, too.  Maybe they can’t be with family this year for personal reasons.  They don’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings but they just want to have a year off.  The funny thing is that if they actually do this, they often come roaring back into the family fold the very next year.  So, be flexible.  Try to accept and adjust.  Appreciate what is.

And finally, watch your lifestyle for tip offs on your stress level.  If you find yourself, not exercising, overeating and over drinking.  You will have plenty of company but it probably also means that you are experiencing increased stress. 

So, once again, the five tips are: make time for your feelings, reach out if you are isolated, be flexible about rituals, stay true to a healthy lifestyle as best you can, and say no.  How’s that as a recipe for beating the holiday blues?

Here’s to just a little less stress this holiday season!


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Mary M Buxton LCSW, Inc. - Sex & Couple Therapy - Licensed Clinical Social Worker  #LCS 7780
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