December: Coping with the Holidays

Physicians Health Network Health & Awareness Articles


Coping with the Holidays
With the holiday season upon us, it is time to check our stress levels. This time of year can bring wonderful gatherings of families and friends, or stressful expectations to create the perfect holiday. It is important to remember that stress can sneak up on us, and leaves us feeling frustrated and irritable.

Examples of Holiday Stress
• Dealing with difficult or unresolved family issues.
• Feeling pressure to create a perfect holiday.
• Feeling lonely and isolated.
• Overindulging on food or drinks.
• Overspending to try to get everyone the perfect gift.
• Feeling pulled in too many different directions.
• Dealing with the crowds and rudeness of others.

Managing Holiday Stress
• Try to set realistic expectations for the season. It is just a few short weeks, and you have to do the regular day to day tasks as well as plan for the festivities. Allow yourself to say NO to some of the events, and do what is the most important to you. Create holiday traditions that mean something to your family, and skip those that don’t make you feel festive.

• Not everyone is happy at the holidays. They can bring up unpleasant memories, and feelings of loss. This can be a difficult time for those who have lost loved ones, or feel separated from them. Allow yourself to feel sad, and know that those feelings are normal. Don’t force yourself to be merry just because others want you to be. This is a time to reach out to supports, and not try to tough it out alone. Look for support from friends, family or community support groups. This is not a time to be alone.

• Set healthy boundaries on how much you plan to eat and drink. This time of year tends to bring out the best foods and sweets. The unwanted weight can cause us to feel tired and sluggish. Don’t go to a party on an empty stomach, and try to balance healthier choices along with the special holiday treats. Keep track of the amount of alcohol you drink, and consider the calories in that as well. Don’t forget to stay active, and get plenty of rest. Try not to get out of normal routines.

• Set a budget on how much you want to spend, and stick to it. Financial stress can keep you up at night, and set you on edge. Instead of overspending, make traditions that are less about the money spent and more on the thought or fun of gift giving. Gift exchanges. Gifts that are homemade or gifts of time or services may be more appreciated and create less pressure to spend into credit card debt.

• Remember to take time to relax and unwind when you feel overwhelmed. Take a walk under the stars, or get a massage. Take a warm bath, or listen to music. Taking care of your self is important all year long. If you feel depressed or anxious, consider speaking to your physician or other mental health provider for assistance.