Coping with Holiday Stress


The holiday season can, indeed, be a wonderful and exciting time of year, but for some, it can also be stressful and overwhelming. Many of us tend to overextend ourselves during the holidays, both with our time and our finances. This can take a huge toll, leaving some of us physically exhausted and financially spent come January.

With the continued economic uncertainties, some people may feel pressured to make up for the cutbacks they’ve had to make in recent months by spending above their means. Others may be more realistic about what they can afford, but worry that they won’t be able to have a good holiday on a budget.

We tend to think of the holiday season as a time for family, however, bringing everyone together can also be stressful if there are unresolved tensions within the family. If you’re worried about being able to afford gifts this holiday season, talk with your loved ones about the real meaning of the holidays for your family. Do things that are consistent with your religious and cultural traditions.

The season may be bittersweet for some adults. If reminded of losses such as the loss of a loved one, find a way to incorporate old traditions and honor your loved ones during this season. (See HealthyMinds Blog).

Here are some tips to help you cope with the holiday stresses:

Don’t focus on having the “perfect” holiday. Focus instead on having an enjoyable holiday, and that includes time for relaxation.

Examine and then lower expectations—both those that you have of yourself and those that others have of you. Do you expect that you have to create the perfect holiday and give the perfect gift? Do you expect others to give you the perfect gift? Do you expect your children or relatives to be on their best behavior at all times? If so, you will likely be disappointed. Things are rarely (if ever!) perfect. Having this mindset will make it more likely that you will run yourself ragged and end the season feeling exhausted and inadequate.

Avoid overspending, as this will only cause increased post-holiday stress when you get your bank statement. Where possible, consider giving homemade gifts. Baked goods make delicious presents and are a lot less expensive than individual store-bought gifts. They also allow you to give something of yourself in a tangible way.

Do something nice for yourself. Take a break from your shopping and make time for a bubble bath or a nice walk.

Don’t be afraid to say no. Setting limits can be difficult. But overextending yourself can leave you feeling underappreciated and resentful. It’s hard to have the “holiday spirit” when you feel that way!If worried about not having enough, try giving to the less fortunate. This can often produce a change in our perspective.

Shop online if the mall is too stressful.


Adapted from a HealthyMinds Blog popst by Gina Newsome Duncan, M.D.