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Tis’ the season to be jolly... perhaps, but for too many of us - tis also the season to get stressed out!

Work parties, family visits, buying those perfect gifts (and then worrying about to pay for it all), too much alcohol and too little sleep and always pushing towards creating that perfect holiday experience for your loved ones – it’s a perfect-storm recipe for a seasonal cocktail of anxiety and stress.

And since stress exacerbates anxiety and depression and can lead to excessive substance abuse or relapse, the holidays can be a difficult time for anyone in recovery from addiction and mental health issues.

Fortunately, you don’t have to get frazzled this year; and since a lot of the stress you’ve experienced in years past has likely been of your own creation – you can take steps this year to make certain you don’t make things any more difficult than they have to be and maximize your odds of having a truly enjoyable and low anxiety holiday season.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 5 things you can do to minimize holiday stress this year are:1

I. Slow Down

Don’t try to do too much. If you’re getting worn out by your many obligations, take some time off from the holiday madness and do something to recharge your batteries. Go see a movie, read a book, go for a walk in the park – take a step back from all your ‘duties’ and take a little time for yourself.

You may miss an event or two but you’ll be much better company at those you do choose to attend and by doing less (you do not have to bake those homemade cookies) and by keeping your sanity you’ll actually be far more productive wherever you choose to direct your attention and energies.

II. Things Won’t Go Perfectly This Year. So What?

(They Never Do ANY Year – and That’s OK)

Creating unrealistic expectations for a magical and perfect holiday season leaves you wide open to stress when things don’t go exactly as planned (and when do things ever go exactly as planned!?!)

You do not need a picture perfect Christmas tree and you’ll remember the people and conversation at the table far more than you’ll ever remember the taste of the Christmas dinner. If the turkey dries out… it’s OK, it doesn’t matter and if you can’t find the kids’ requested toys – they’ll be just happy with whatever you can find them.

Do your best, don’t worry about achieving impossible perfection and remember that having an enjoyable time with people you care about is far more important than anything else.

III. Don’t Overspend

You do not need to spend a fortune this year. No one needs an extravagant gift or a gourmet meal; especially if paying for those gifts and all that entertaining is going to provoke stress and financial anxiety.

If you’ve got children who are clamoring for the latest and greatest, then simply explain to them about your budget and about what’s reasonable to expect this year.

Don’t spend more than you can afford, lose the financial stress and see if you don’t have a whole lot more fun this holiday season.

IV. Volunteer

Donate some time to a worthy organization and you may find that you gain a little perspective on those things that can seem so important and stress-provoking over the holiday season – but which are so unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

V. Get Some Support

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, things just get overwhelming. If stress and anxiety are getting the best of you, don’t try to slog through on your own. Talk about the way you’re feeling with a close friend or family member and ask for their support and assistance. 

And if things don’t get better or if you’re really having a hard time with your stress or anxiety, don’t suffer through it unnecessarily, make an appointment to meet with a mental health professional and learn more about how you can start feeling a whole lot better over the holidays - and for the rest of the year too.

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Page last updated Dec 15, 2015

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