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How can I manage holiday stress?

The holidays are usually stressful times due to a variety of reasons including increased demands, isolation, absence of loved ones, financial concerns and dietary changes. Activities such as parties, baking, shopping, wrapping, volunteering and visiting increase during this time. Holidays are also a time when people remember lost loved ones, which can bring on feelings of sadness and loneliness that worsens stress. It is important to plan ahead, continue healthy habits and balance your schedule during these times in order to enjoy these festivities instead of feeling overwhelmed by them.

Stress doesn't have to be part of your holidays. Taking positive action now to plan the upcoming season will reduce pressure and increase your enjoyment of what can be a lovely time of year.
  • Start planning early. Lay out a timetable so you don't get caught rushing to fit things in at the last minute. For example, think about how much time you realistically have to decorate and set up a schedule for doing it gradually.
  • Check the calendar now. There are lots of holidays in December and January. If you have family members who celebrate different ones, talk with everyone about how, where and when celebrations will take place.
  • Think about what's worked for previous holidays. Ask yourself what your best memories are from the holidays and what traditions or events were the most draining. Use your answers to make healthful changes this season. For instance, create new traditions to replace any that have been stressful in the past.
  • Ask for help. You don't have to do it all and you don't have to do it all alone. Enlist others, set priorities and simplify!
  • Set gift limits. You may want to curb the cost or amount of gift-buying you do. If so, talk with family, friends or coworkers in advance to reach agreement on this.
  • Organize your gift list and shop early. Avoid crowded stores and out-of-stock items by shopping early. If you order online, shipping costs are usually lower when you have time to wait for delivery.
  • Wrap and label gifts. If you've shopped early, you can also wrap your gifts early. Stash them in a closet or at a friend's house and keep a list so you don't forget what you have.
  • Cook ahead. Create a list of specialties you enjoy making that can be baked or cooked and frozen in advance. Prepare them weeks before the holidays and freeze them.
  • Address cards in advance. If you enjoy sending holiday cards or letters, get them ready to mail ahead of time so you can send them whenever you want.
  • Make entertaining easy. Limit how many people you invite. If guests ask what they can bring, assign dishes that must be prepared fresh, such as salad.

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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.