During the holidays we are exposed to stressful situations that most of us do not deal with the remainder of the year. The additional social functions at work, school or with family and friends are piled on top of a schedule overloaded with shopping trips, cooking and worrying about extra money spent. This is a recipe for disaster and not what the holidays should be about. The following suggestions are ones I have given to patients; they will reduce your holiday anxiety levels and help you keep your sanity.
Take control of your environment
Part of the stress that comes from the holidays is that we try to be everything to everyone and we become overwhelmed. The world does not stop if you miss one Christmas party. Sit down before the holidays get any closer and mark down all your obligations or invites. If things overlap make a decision to let one go. Let the host know now, it is polite and a tremendous relief to no longer “worry” about what to do. It’s done.
Make a Shopping List
You CAN NOT think in a crowded store and you will lose track of your spending without a pre-made list. Write down everyone you will shop for, don’t forget teachers, bosses, and secretaries. Those last minute gifts add stress with multiple trips to the store. Use the internet to search for items and prices and annotate what you will get each person. Do not be tempted in the store, stick to your list and a budget you can live with after the holidays. I have seen overspending during the holidays cause anxiety and depression in January.
My favorite tip is to skip the stores entirely. Anxiety sky rockets dealing with traffic, crowds and rude people. Most stores have online shopping and some, like Amazon, have everything you need in one spot. For distant family members this allows you to skip the post office chaos. Shop in your PJ’s in front of the fire, no stress at all.
A short walk, jog or trip to the gym will make you feel like you have done something for yourself. It gets your blood flowing, speeds up your metabolism and burns off stress. Best of all it, you feel really good when you are done.
Many people increase their alcohol intake to deal with holiday stress. This is a temporary way to forget about your problems but they don’t go away. You will still have to cope with the problem only now while nursing a headache and dehydration. Keep the alcohol to one to two glasses at an event.
Try to spend time enjoying the company of friends and family and don’t get caught up in the whirl of commercialism this holiday season. If you do feel yourself overwhelmed despite these tips seek help from a counselor or physician to discuss further relaxation techniques or medications.