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How can I stop stress from ruining my holiday?

While we often think of stressors (things that cause stress) as negative changes, keep in mind that stressors may even be positive changes, such as a wedding, a new job or promotion, a move, or even the holidays. Spending time with family and friends, hosting and attending parties, and giving gifts sounds -- and can be -- wonderful, but preparation can also be a lot of work. 

Unfortunately, this stress can make it feel like the holidays have been “ruined.” And worse still, stress can contribute to cardiovascular problems, in addition to other health effects. The more stress you endure, the higher your risk of having a heart attack and dying suddenly from a heart event.

The following tips may help you reduce holiday stress and enjoy time with family and friends more, while helping your heart health:
  • Learn to let go. If some aspect of the holidays does not live up to the level of perfection you hoped for, it is, in most cases, not a big deal. Take time to enjoy the holidays without worrying about an impossible number of details.
  • Allow yourself plenty of time to get errands or a project done. Do what grocery and gift shopping you can a little bit ahead of time. You’ll avoid a sense of panic - and likely some crowds as well.
  • Get or stay organized. Take the time to map out your errands and/or your meals for the week. A little preparation can be a time-saver in the long run, avoiding many trips to the store or inefficient trips around town.
  • Learn how to say no. Remember that just because you can fit something into your schedule, doesn’t mean you should. Taking on additional responsibilities requires that you give up something else that is important to you -- such as much-needed relaxation time.
  • Make time for yourself. Try to stick to your diet and exercise routines as much as possible during the holidays, and leave quiet time for yourself. Read a book, take a warm bath, or practice yoga or meditate -- whatever helps you recharge when you need it. Stepping away for a few minutes may help you enjoy holiday celebrations all the more.
Stephanie Adams
Social Work
As hard as it may be to believe at times, you really are in charge of the stress level of your holiday season. Though family and friends may try to make you feel otherwise, you have a choice about what activities you do and don't do. The trick is to prepare ahead of time…because if you're not careful it can REALLY catch you off guard.

Reflect on the past: what was most stressful for you last year? How can you make it less stressful this year -- or even better, eliminate it all together? Choose to change what doesn't work for you. A big stressor in this time of year, especially for women, is working too hard in order to not "inconvenience" anybody. But think about it: if you're miserable, you're at the very least not fully present to those around you. And even beyond that you may be stressing out your family as well, because you're stressed out. So how is stretching yourself too thin making the situation any better?

A second area that often causes stress is giving gifts. Many mothers worry that somehow their gifts are a representation of their love for their children. If their children aren't absolutely ecstatic over the gifts they've received, mothers can interpret that as failure. Don't fall into that trap. Kids don't always appreciate things they should appreciate. But that doesn't mean that the effort you went to was worthless. Kids also don't always appreciate the meals you cook for them or the homework projects you help them finish either! But that doesn't mean those efforts weren't valuable. They are valuable because of the heart behind them, not their results.

The bottom line is that no holiday season will be perfect. It will just be, at best, a time to spend with your family and show each other how much you appreciate one another. If you can work towards that, then you have every chance of a great and stress-free holiday season. So relax and enjoy yourself! Have fun with it. It's all up to you!
Arlene Feuerberg-Isaacs
Psychology
Holidays can be very stressful. The best way to reduce stress is to be organized. First make a list of all that needs to be done, for example; buy gifts, send cards, wrap gifts, etc. As you accomplish each task cross it off the list. Make sure you review the list everyday both to add any additional tasks and to feel a sense of accomplishment regarding all the tasks you have completed.

Irwin Isaacs
Psychology
Stress is part of life; especially in this day and age. Sometimes I find it necessary to remind some of my clients that the only people that are stress free are the ones who have departed from this existence. So first of all it is important to accept the reality that there always will be some sort of stress to experience.

Stress will not ruin your holidays if you allow yourself to be less than perfect. When you hear that inner voice saying something negative or critical you must immediately turn that off. Instead remind yourself that you are only human; with your own set of human imperfections. When you start appreciating yourself for whatever it is that you accomplish, something interesting will happen. The people around you will also be appreciative and will be mirroring your positive attitude.

So stand up straight and tall, keep a smile on your face, and spring in your step. Don't worry -- be happy!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.