Handling the Stress of the Holidays

With all its joy and celebration, the holiday season can also be fraught with stressful challenges. From finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list to navigating the minefield of family dynamics, it’s no wonder people turn into Ebenezer Scrooge before the holidays are even in full swing. In fact, research has shown that even the anticipation of the holiday season can send some people into a tailspin of anxiety and worry.

But it doesn’t have to be this way! The holiday season—the weeks spanning Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day—should be a time of celebrating with family and close friends, counting the blessings of the past year and looking forward to the year ahead. So how do you do this and avoid the potential pitfalls lurking around every corner? Essentially, it’s all a matter of attitude.

Here are a few tips for embracing the highs (and lows) of the holiday season:

• Get organized: Just like Santa, make a list and check it twice. You will feel more on top of things if you know exactly what you need to buy and bake during this season. So spend an hour one Sunday afternoon to look ahead for the next few weeks at everything that needs to be done. This is a feat in itself, so pat yourself on the back once you’re done!

• Make time for yourself: Even when you’re hustling around town, checking items off your list, take time to enjoy a cup of tea and a magazine, or chat on the phone with a friend while you’re sitting in a parking lot. By budgeting in these small breaks, you will feel more energized and less burned out.

• Laugh: Because something will always not go according to plan, decide in advance to find the humor in every situation. If you let go of your inner perfectionist, that easy-going nature will likely rub off on those around you. The holidays should be about making memories, not about the perfect gingerbread house. So choose to laugh about your dog pulling it off the table five minutes before your annual holiday party is scheduled to start!

And what about those pesky New Year’s resolutions? How do you make them stick, instead of breaking them all by January 2? Experts agree that setting small, specific goals will lead to greater change than one big, unspecific goal. For example, instead of vowing to lose 10 pounds, resolve instead to hit the gym a certain number of times a week and to bring your lunch more frequently. Once you have accomplished these smaller goals, you’ll feel encouraged to continue making positive changes in your life.
Keep in mind, too, that the tips above can be used year-round, not just at holiday time!

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