Managing Holiday Stress

November 4, 2012 | Health Advice, Students | By: Jennifer Brull | Tags: , , , , , ,

Many thanks to Megan Dingwall, a student doctor from KU School of Medicine in Wichita, who researched and presented on holiday stress to the RCHC auxiliary this month.  If you have “holiday stress-itis” be sure to read on!

Stress and the Holidays

The holidays can be an especially time of year for most people.  Increasing demands on time and finances can exacerbate the stress adults feel in their daily lives.  It is important to take steps to minimize stress during the holidays so that you are able to enjoy holiday festivities with family and friends.

Did you know…

  • 39% of adults say their stress level has increased over the past year, and even more (44%) said their stress had increased over the past five years
  • When stress occurs, only 29% of adults say they are doing a good job at managing or reducing it

How can I prevent holiday stress?

  1. Acknowledge your feelings—If someone close to you has recently passed away or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief.  You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it is the holiday season.
  2. Reach out—Seek out community, religious, or other social events.  These interactions can offer support during the holidays if you are under stress.  Volunteering your time to help others can also improve your mood.
  3. Be realistic—Remember that the holidays do not have to be perfect or exactly like the previous year.  Family situations can change and make it difficult to all be together during the holidays.  Be open to creating new traditions and find ways to incorporate loved ones who can’t be present into the day’s celebrations (e.g., opening presents over Skype).
  4. Set aside differences—Do not try to discuss grievances with other family members during the holidays.  Choosing a more appropriate time to have a discussion about your differences of opinion will make the holidays more pleasant for everyone.
  5. Stick to a budget—Decide how much you will spend on food and gifts before you go shopping.  If you are not financially able to buy gifts for everyone on your list this year consider these alternatives: donate to a charity in someone’s name, make homemade gifts, or start a gift exchange where each family member draws the name of a relative whom they will give a gift to this year.  If large meals are too expensive to plan, considering asking each guest to bring a dish and then eat buffet-style.
  6. Plan ahead—Schedule days for shopping, baking, gift wrapping, etc.  Stick to this calendar and there will not be any last minute scrambling to finish tasks.
  7. Learn to say no—Saying yes to all invitations will leave you feeling overwhelmed with an endless to-do list.  Friends and family will understand if you are not able to participate in every project or event.  Committing to fewer activities will allow you to enjoy your time spent at each event.
  8. Don’t abandon healthy habits—Abandoning healthy eating and exercise will only increase your stress during the holidays.  Continue to make exercise and good sleep a priority.  Try having a healthy snack (e.g., an apple, a handful of almonds, etc.) before going to a holiday party to prevent overdoing it on sweets.
  9. Take a breather—Make sure you plan “alone-time” into each day.  Taking a break from the stress of the day allows you to clear your mind and tackle the tasks that await you with new energy.
  10. Seek professional help if you need it—Sometimes feelings of stress during the holidays turn into persistent sadness or anxiety.  If your sleep and appetite are affected, or if you find yourself consistently sad or hopeless, talk to your doctor.  Depression is a very real disease that a medical professional can help treat.

1.  American Psychological Association “2012 Stress in America Report”
2.  Mayo Clinic “Stress, depression, and the holidays: Tips for coping”