5 Tips to Help You Reduce The Holiday Stress

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How to Reduce Stress During the Holidays

The holiday season often brings some unwanted guests: stress and depression.

And it's not surprising. Holidays often present a myriad of demands, including meal planning and preparation, shopping, baking, clean up, and entertaining, to name just a few.

No holiday event will be perfect, but while the upcoming holidays have their stressors, they can also be a source of joy and reflection.

With a few practical tips, you can minimize the stress that comes with vacation. You might even end up enjoying your vacation more than you think.

1. Anticipate stress

Ready or not, stress is likely to kick in at some point during the season. But knowing when a wave is about to hit can prepare you for the worst.

“Holidays naturally heighten emotions and bring families together who have repeating patterns of behavior year after year, sometimes like a bad dance,” says Dr. Cynthia Ackrill, chair of the Workplace Stress Board, from the American Institute of Stress. in Fort Worth, Texas.

Identify your own stress triggers, whether they're planning parties or organizing outings, and be aware of stressors others experience. You won't feel like you're alone facing the holidays and everyone will get along better.

2. Be in the moment

Despite the craziness, there is still a lot of joy during the holiday season, and appreciating the good around you can cheer you up all year long.

Mindfulness strategies are key, says Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and commentator. She recommends taking time each day to list the things you're currently grateful for.

“Sit back and notice what you see, smell, feel and hear about the holidays and what you appreciate,” she says.

3. Beware of your addictions

If you are tempted to turn to addictions like smoking and drinking, remember that these habits can make you feel worse in the long run. And if you decide to have a few drinks at parties, set reasonable limits beforehand.

Unity is strength, so find trusted companions you can lean on when times get tough. "Talk to trusted friends about your stress to share and know you're not alone," says Saltz. "Ask a friend to be a friend who won't help either of you fall back into unhealthy habits."

And if you arm yourself with the tools for a healthy vacation, you'll feel more confident in coping with stressful situations.

“The more people feel that they are in control using other methods and that they can be prepared, the less they will feel the need to escape,” says Dr. Karen Sherman, a psychologist and relationship expert.

4. Remember to breathe

It may sound silly, but in the midst of a holiday slump, it's possible to forget to breathe. Proper breathing techniques have the power to center you and bring you back to the moment.

“Breathwork is a wonderful way to create a pause between stimulus and response so that you can choose a response rather than an automatic reaction,” says Ackrill.

If you feel a spark of panic coming on, take a slow, deep breath and count backward if you find it helpful. If you have a spare moment, add some simple yoga or stretching poses to get the most out of your breathing exercises.

5. Be realistic with your expectations

Many holidays, especially Christmas, are romanticized in the media. But remember that no one is really having a perfect vacation and that there are always ups and downs.

Do what you can to plan ahead for trips, cooking, and other urgent events, but don't be discouraged if things don't go exactly as planned.

"Coping with the imperfection of the holiday fantasy is a major stressor and a leading cause of the holiday blues," says relationship psychotherapist Dr. Cheryl Pappas.

“The Christmas photo shows a large, loving family and close friends with whom we celebrate the warmth and joy of the holiday. But real life and relationships are complicated and imperfect."

Acknowledging that the blemish is normal will certainly take some of the pressure off.

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