Tips for Dealing With the Inevitable Holiday Stress

stressed woman phone kidsCongratulations on making it through your first dose of holiday stress. I love Thanksgiving as much as anyone, but the coordination that goes into bringing your entire family together and arranging a huge meal is exhausting, to say the least. I got to the end of the weekend with a sense of relief that it’s all finally finished before remembering I’ll be doing it at least once or twice again in the next month. Are you feeling the same way? This week I wanted to share some of my favorite tips to help get you through the rough patches with minimal stress.

Take a few deep breaths.

It seems simple, but stopping to focus on your breathing for 30 seconds can make a huge difference in your stress levels. It might not fix the problem in the long run, but it will definitely bring you down a notch when life is particularly hectic. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, find a quiet space where you can sit in silence for a minute or two. The best place I’ve found during family events is the bathroom. No one will fault you for excusing yourself and you’ll get those precious moments of privacy to recharge.

Sleep well.

I’ve found that many of my patients who are stressed also have poor-quality sleep. The question is: Which came first? The stress or the poor sleep? The answer is often both. Going to bed stressed makes it harder to sleep and the loss of sleep exacerbates the stress in a vicious downward spiral. To avoid tossing and turning, thinking about everything you need to do, take some time an hour or two before going to bed to write down a to-do list for the following day. Have the paper at hand right up until you go to bed and leave it next to you in case you remember something. This allows you to dump the stress rather than bring it to bed. You should also set up a routine before bed to get yourself in sleep mode. Dim the lights, turn off your screens and find something quiet and relaxing to do at least an hour before bed.

Have a budget.

Holiday stress is often financial. Between gift-giving, food buying and travel expenses, bank accounts can be dangerously depleted during the holidays. To prepare, try and budget out how much you think you can actually spend. Thinking ahead about what your expenses will be helps you decide how much you can spend on gifts and whether your dinner should be a potluck instead of completely homemade. While it’s nice to give expensive gifts, remember that it really is the thought that counts.

Find time for yourself.

Chances are, you probably already have a good sense of what calms you down. The problem is, there are so many family gatherings and holiday parties that you might be giving up those stress relievers to hit everything on your holiday checklist. It’s okay to say no to a holiday party or two if it means you’ll get the downtime to recharge your batteries the way you know you should.

Remind yourself of what you’re thankful for.

Sometimes a family gathering can seem like a reminder of everything you hated about your extended family. Those negative feelings can sour the entire day by making you hyperaware of every little thing that bugs you. In those moments, try and turn it around and think of what you’re thankful for. Reminding yourself of all the good things in your life can radically change your mood and give you enough perspective to stay out of that dark spiral. You’ll be happier and much less stressed.

I’ve found that applying these tips helps me get a handle on the stress of the holiday season. I hope they help you find the same relief.