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gift boxesThe holidays can be a time of festivities, happiness, giving, and gathering with friends and loved ones. They can also be stressful. Shopping for the perfect gifts, designing and mailing holiday cards, reciprocating unexpected cards and gifts you receive, and attending multiple parties (with a special outfit to wear) all bring extra pressure. Holiday travel—and the associated stress of reservations, packing, airports, rental cars, crowded roads, and living away from home—add even more tension to a “holiday stress ball.”

Don’t do too much

As we enter the holiday season, it is important to be mindful of how all the things we want to do can affect our well-being. It is easy to overwhelm ourselves by saying “yes” to all the invitations that come our way, and trying to attend everything can often take away from the enjoyment of events. Select the gatherings that are most important to you, and know that it is okay to decline some invitations.

Get organized

After addressing the 50th card, does it begin to feel like this?

After addressing the 50th card, does it begin to feel like this?

Planning ahead and keeping things straight can help manage stress. If you use a calendar to keep track of parties and gatherings, you are less likely to overbook yourself. Gift checklists can also be handy, so you always know who you’ve got covered (and for whom you still need to shop). Mailing lists also keep your holiday cards organized, and if you really want to save time, try making a holiday address label file that you can easily update each year and print with a festive, colorful font.

It’s the thought that counts, right?

Finances can become a huge source of stress during the holidays. Despite the recent rough economy, we may still feel pressure to participate in the gift-giving customary of Christmas and Hanukkah. One way to avoid over-spending is to set a budget and stick with it. If money is tight, you have the right to remove people from your gift list, or at least buy them inexpensive presents. Taking a moment to reflect on the sentiment behind gifts, and possibly finding other ways to express those feelings (besides material giving), can be helpful in keeping us connected to the true spirit of the holidays.

Holiday munchies often bring stress, not comfort

This is the time of year when baskets of goodies flow into offices and homes, and the holiday parties and office luncheons are in full swing. It is easy to overindulge with holiday yummies so close in reach. Enjoying these treats may be traditional, but grazing at each event can add up. Consider a balanced approach, in which you neither splurge nor deprive yourself. In other words, treat yourself a little, but be conscious of the food choices you make. Avoid using food to manage your stress and be mindful to eat primarily when you are hungry.

Family togetherness

Group hug 2

When this guy goes home for the holidays, it seems there’s always an elephant in the room

While some experience spending time with family as pleasant and joyful, others find it extremely stressful. Family members may make unreasonable demands, push buttons, or monopolize time. Although we can’t control other people’s behavior, we can control our reactions to it. While it takes practice, thought, and a sincere desire to change, we can consciously choose to break old patterns. We may hope that others will change, but accepting them for who they are will help to manage our expectations, and ultimately, our stress levels.

Practicing some of these stress tips can help you create a holiday experience that is more satisfying and less stressful, and allow you to truly embrace the spirit of the season. Happy Holidays to you and your family!

poppiesby Andrea Bardack, LCSW, CEAP
Professional Staff at CWFL

bardack@usc.edu

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