Tips for Coping with Holiday Stress

With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, I thought now as a good time to talk about stress. Sure, the holidays are wonderful: you can reconnect with family and friends, sharing old memories and making new ones. But, let's face it--they can also be stressful. There are worries about sticking to your diet, thanks to all the fabulous holiday dishes we share at our gatherings. There are worries about hosting parties; worries about buying gifts and extending yourself financially. Sometimes, there are worries and stress for which we can't even pinpoint a cause. If you fall into any of these categories, know this: you are not alone. Holiday related stress--or, worse, depression--is not uncommon. The key to coping is to understand what's happening to you, and to share with loved ones or professionals so you can get the help you need. Before I share some other coping strategies with you, I'd like to help you understand what stress is and what happens to your body during stressful times. Travelling to see loved ones is great, but it's just one of the many things that may be stressful this holiday season

Breaking Down Stress

Stress is a normal reaction to the demands of life. A small amount of stress can be good, motivating you to perform well. But experiencing too many challenges on a daily basis (chronic stress) can lead to a situation where your health is threatened.

Stress management is a true necessity in today’s hectic world. First, it’s important to figure out what gets you stressed: running late? Carpool lines? Your demanding boss?

Next, think about some coping strategies, starting with things you can control. For example, if stress keeps you up at night, the solution may be as easy as banning screens from your bedroom so you can slowly get into the sleeping mindset as you unwind from a long day.

When it comes to things you can’t always control, like the holidays, you just have to change your reaction. Don't feel like you have to go it alone. Seek help from family and friends who may be able to lighten other parts of your load.

Of course, maintaining a healthy lifestyle helps you manage stress. Eat well, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep. Make a conscious effort to spend more time doing what makes you feel relaxed.

Stress is here to stay—that’s just a fact of modern life—so that means stress management needs to be ongoing. By paying attention to what gets you stressed and actively working to fight those feelings, you can counter some of the bad effects of stress and increase your ability to cope with challenges.

Mindfulness and Holiday Stress 

Mindfulness is a fancy way of saying that you're allowing yourself to be in the moment. To let go of how you think things should be, or will be, and to embrace what already is. Employing mindfulness is a great way to reinvent the way you experience holidays. By letting go of expectations of yourself, other people, and the world, you can appreciate what is already wonderful in your current life. Choose not to focus on what you you're lacking, or the family and friends you can no longer celebrate with. Forget about gifts you can't afford to purchase--you can't control any of that. What you CAN control is your own thoughts and attention, so make conscious choices to focus on the blessings if your life.

I know, that's easy to say--but not always so easy to do. But I'm here to tell you, you can do it! At any moment, you can change your mindset by abandoning attachments to expectations. Just work on being present in the moment you're living right now! When you stop trying to control outside factors, so much of your holiday stress will start to disappear. 

Holiday Stress Hacks 

Now that we're working on accepting what we can't change and being in the moment, let's focus directly on some of the main holiday stressors. 

For people who feel like there's just too much to do, and no time in which to do it: Does doing your hair make you feel great? Make time for it, even when holiday stress has you running in 10 different directions!

  • Choose your priorities carefully: you really DON'T need to go to that party being hosted by your third cousin twice-removed.

  • Make time for self-care--it's amazing how a 10 minute foot rub, 15 minute soak in a bubble bath or even a 5 minute walk on the treadmill can boost your mood!

  • Know that nothing will be "perfect." Allow yourself to be ok with this fact. 

  • Be ready to say no to certain requests. You are one person; you can't do everything. 

 

If emotions are getting the best of you: 

  • Take breaks as needed, and practice slow, deep breathing. 

  • Express your gratitude and love on a daily basis 

If you're worried about finances: 

  • Set a realistic holiday budget. Stick to it.

  • Think about the point of giving gifts; see if your giving can take on less of a financial impact. 

  • Make sure your family and partner are on the same page about limiting purchases. 

Even with all these helpful hacks, I know you may be facing some tough moments in between the upcoming periods of holiday joy. I beg you not to hurt alone. If you are stressed or in pain, reach out and talk to someone. Anyone. It can always get better. Wishing all my friends, readers and patients a physically and mentally healthful holiday period!

Dr. Andrew Schneider
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Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.
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