The holidays are meant to be a time of joy. Reuniting with family members, exchanging gifts and attending events are all usually exciting reasons to feel some holiday cheer. Sometimes, though, the hustle and bustle that come along with the holiday season can cause excessive stress. If these feelings of stress are not managed properly, they can lead to cases of anxiety, or even depression.

If you’re prone to stress, it is especially important for you to plan ahead for situations that could overwhelm you. Coping with these overwhelming feelings may seem hard, but there are certain steps you can take to minimize them in order to have a peaceful and joyous holiday.

  1. Make a Schedule - One of the biggest reasons the holidays can be so overwhelming is because there's so much going on. There are children’s plays and concerts, parties, family gatherings and more. In addition to these special events, you have to find time to decorate and go shopping for gifts. That’s a lot of stuff to do! So instead of trying to do everything spur of the moment, schedule times on your personal calendar for each item - even for shopping or baking. This will help you feel more in control of your schedule, as well as ensure that you don’t miss any important events.

  1. Keep Expectations Realistic - Another cause of stress during the holidays is the feeling that everything needs to be perfect or that you need to stick to a certain set of traditions. Unfortunately, nothing ever runs as smoothly as we hope it would. The best way to approach the holidays is to be open to new traditions. It’s also important to stay calm and accepting if something doesn’t go as planned. Look at it this way: sometimes the best memories come from spontaneity!

  1. Say No When You Need To - It’s important to remember you don’t need to participate in every activity or attend every event. Friends, family and coworkers will understand if you have to say no to something. For example, maybe money is a little tight this year and you can’t participate in the office Secret Santa poll. Or maybe the neighborhood Christmas party is the same night you were supposed to have your family cookie exchange. Choosing one thing over the other won’t hurt anyone’s feelings. It will help keep your stress levels low and allow you to truly focus on the events and activities you care about.

  1. Keep Up With Your Healthy Habits - Overindulgence is easy to partake in during the holidays, but it can also leave you feeling bad about yourself. While it’s okay to have a yummy dessert at a holiday party, or skip an intense workout occasionally, you still should keep healthy habits in mind throughout the season. Here are a few things you can do to stay healthy during the holidays:

  • Get Plenty of Sleep - It may be tempting to stay up late to get the gift wrapping done or watch that holiday movie you love, but if you start skimping on how much sleep you get, you’ll begin to feel run down.

  • Eat a Healthy Snack Before a Holiday Party - This will help keep you from overeating at the snack table!

  • Stay Physically Active - You may not have time to do an intense workout or go for a five mile run, but even 30 minutes of walking can help burn calories and keep you physically fit. Plus, any physical activity will help ease feelings of stress.

  1. Relax - It may seem like you’re constantly running around during the holidays. That’s why when you do begin to feel stressed, it’s important to take a breather. Even if it’s only 10-15 minutes, try taking some time for yourself where you can just regroup and relax. Whether it’s reading a book, listening to music or even meditating, taking time to relax will help you decrease your stress levels.

If stress begins to feel unmanageable, don’t be afraid to reach out to family or friends about how you’re feeling. More than likely, they will do everything they can to help you keep calm and enjoy the holidays. If your stress leads you to feel anxious or depressed for a long period of time, it’s important to seek out professional help. We want you have have the happiest, most stress-free holiday season possible. If you feel like you need help coping with stress, or feel that you may be dealing with a bigger mental health issue, give your doctor a call or reach out to our offices at 412-231-2957.

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