Surviving Holiday Stress

These tips can keep your holiday season cheerful and bright.

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Let’s face it. The holidays can be a time for making memories and recalling good times … or the perfect backdrop for emotional turmoil, guilt and family drama.

For many, the season brings another level of stress to already busy lives. If you find your blood pressure going up as “Jingle Bells” begins to play, you need help to de-stress. Dr. Scott Moseman is a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist who serves as medical director and attending physician for the Laureate Eating Disorders Program. He shares these tips on how to keep smiling and stay sane through the holidays.

  • Schedule. You don’t have to go to every party or get-together. Set downtime and nights off. As you make your holiday plans, schedule breaks in your calendar.
  • Exercise. Enjoying walks outside, yoga and biking can help to reduce stress. Outdoor activities in the sun can be especially important for anyone with a history of seasonal affective disorder or its symptoms.
  • Eat mindfully. Think about your food intake. Balance the joys of your favorite holiday treats and meals with protein and fiber, which can help with satiety and energy levels.
  • Plan. Make your list and check it twice. Being prepared for parties and presents and having help from family and friends can reduce last-minute stress.
  • Budget. Keep your bank account in mind when buying gifts. Big bills don’t help post-holiday blues.
  • Accept. Let family be who they will be; annoying habits are not likely to change. Try not to discuss subjects that won’t be resolved in the holiday hustle and bustle. Moseman also advises to not act as a referee or become triangulated in holiday drama, such as a sibling complaining about your mom but then asking you to say something to her about the issue. “For every large family gathering or party that you have to deal with someone whom you find challenging, schedule a smaller get-together with a small group of friends that you can relax around and truly be yourself,” Moseman says.
  • Limit. Choose a few traditions that are difficult to mess up and don’t get wrapped up in a long list of activities that have to go exactly as you envisioned. Moseman says:  “Expectations are the robbers of joy. Keep things simple and don’t overdo it. I recommend no Elf on the Shelf. Also, plan out a reasonable amount of things to do and delegate activities to friends and loved ones.”
  • Practice joy. Express gratitude and give compliments freely. This spirit can turn normally tense situations into uplifting ones. Moseman adds that compliments and asking people about themselves help to keep people off sensitive or difficult topics.
  • Drink moderately. Alcohol is a depressant and, in higher amounts, can increase anxiety, depression and poor sleep.
  • Dress gaudily. And last but not least, wear an ugly Christmas sweater – the uglier the better!
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