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Top Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

holiday stress, holiday expectations

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

The stress of upcoming holidays can overshadow the joy of spending time with family, exchanging gifts, nibbling on holiday goodies and relaxing with friends. No one wants to be too frazzled to enjoy what the holidays are all about. Here are some tips for memorable holidays.

Sit down with your family and talk about what this holiday means.

Ask each person to share, “What are the most essential (important) parts of this holiday?” “What would really be missed if we didn’t do it together as a family?”

What can you do for others who may find it difficult to have a happy holiday?

What will each person do to help get ready for the holiday? Make a list of who will do what when.

Whittle down the plans until you feel confident you can accomplish them. This will give you a sense of “being in control” (one of the key characteristics of good stress managers) — rather than feeling overwhelmed.

One of the biggest sources of stress is unrealistic expectations – trying to accomplish more than is reasonable – and trying to have everything perfect. Some things may need to be postponed for the next holiday.

Are there family rituals that need to be dropped or modified? Family rituals are very important, but they may need to evolve as children grow up and families change.

Stay within your budget. Feeling in control of your money (no matter how much you have) is a priceless feeling.

Eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and relax deeply. Taking good care of yourself is one of the cornerstones of stress management, and it’s especially important at holiday time – for you and everyone else in the family. Your stress can splash over onto other family members – so it’s a kindness to everyone when you take good care of yourself. Too much stress can cause you to feel fatigued, can mess with your blood sugars and send your hormones out-of-whack.

Holiday stress and the elevated cortisol hormone that stress releases can cause people to eat excessive amounts of comfort foods and gain weight. Curb your hunger and overindulging at holiday gatherings by eating a light, low-fat snack such as soup, fruit, or cereal before parties.

When things get too stressful, call a 10-minute time out. Get a cup of tea, run around the block or just relax with your feet up. You will come back to face any challenge with a refreshed mind and body.

Plan time to relax deeply. A massage could give you a wonderful psychological boost and help reward you for all you’ve done to manage your stress in positive ways.

Spend fun time together – and roll with the punches.

Planning time together with your family may be the most important thing you can do for each other.

The best laid plans regularly go astray! Expect glitches and make the best of what comes your way.

Happy Holidays!

Source: Dr. Pat Tanner Nelson, Extension Family & Human Development Specialist, University of Delaware Extension

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