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Healthy Ways for a

Stress-Free Holiday Season

By Tonya Ladipo, LSW

The holidays are supposed to be a pleasurable and enjoyable time. A time when people gather to celebrate a day, an occasion or a season, right?   Not necessarily.   For many people, the holidays cause stress and anxiety.  

 

What makes the holidays so stressful?

Some factors that increase stress include time, money, and family.

 

TIME

Time becomes precious as the holidays approach because more needs to be done in addition to daily responsibilities.   There are parties and school events to attend, presents to buy, make, and wrap, grocery shopping and food to prepare for holiday events.  

 

Suddenly there are more tasks to be completed in the same amount of limited time.   And, unfortunately, responsibilities like work, child care, relationships and bills cannot be ignored simply because of the holidays.

 

Since some people are currently celebrating holidays and others are preparing to, now is a good time to improve your time management skills.

•  Create a list of responsibilities to complete.   Ask others (partners, siblings, children) to complete some tasks in order to complete within a realistic timeframe.   Otherwise, recognize that not all of your tasks are necessary, and cross those items off the list.   For example, hosting Thanksgiving requires a visit to the grocery store.   However, you do not need to have napkin rings, placecards, or perfectly crafted decorations.  

•  Review your list and identify dates when items need to be accomplished.   Mark them in your calendar or hang the dated list on the refrigerator.

•  Start accomplishing tasks during off-peak hours .   Consider shopping before or after work.

•  Schedule stress-free time for yourself .   Exercise, read a book, or take a walk.   Determine a day and time (perhaps Sunday at 3:00pm) where you do not schedule any other responsibilities.   Do not forgo this because the holidays are approaching.   Enjoyable and relaxing activities are even more necessary during the stressful holiday season.

 

FINANCES

Finances often become strained during the holidays.   People feel the need to get the "right" present or host the perfect party or dinner.   As a result, people spend money they do not have.   The accrued debt causes distress not only during the holiday season, but for months and even years later.

 

Before you start shopping and spending money you do not have, create a budget.   Determine how much money you can spend during the holiday season and spend accordingly.   To create a budget, make a list of all of your expenses (including coffee, cigarettes, etc.).   Then make a list of your income.   Subtract your expenses from your income and that is how much money you can spend this holiday season.   If you want extra money, look at you expenses list and see what you can reduce (i.e. pack a lunch instead of eating out).

 

If your resulting holiday budget is not as large as you would like, you may have to buy fewer or less expensive gifts than you did in the past.   Be creative and make gifts.   Think about making gift certificates that are redeemable for your time (a future sledding date, cuddle time, or cookie making time).  

 

For more detailed information on how to create a budget look at these resources:

•  "Get A Financial Life" by Beth Kobliner

•  http://money.cnn.com/pf/101/lessons/2/

FAMILIES

For many people, their families are a source of support and strength.   They interact on a regular basis and enjoy each other's company.

For these families, the holidays are another time to be together and celebrate.   It is a time that they look forward to.  

 

Unfortunately, this is not true for everyone.   Some people feel stress, anxiety, and even pain when they are with their family.   This may be a result of old tensions, alcohol or drug use, different value systems, or abuse or neglect.   As a result, holidays with the family are not always pleasant and enjoyable.   If this is the case for you, consider the following question:

 

Do I have to spend the holidays with my family?

Actually, you don't.   As an adult you can decide what is best for you.   If spending the holidays with your family will not be enjoyable or healthy for you then you can choose not to go.

 

Once you remember that you have a choice regarding the holidays, you can also choose to do things differently.   Maybe spending the holidays with your family has not been enjoyable for you in the past, but you still want to see them.   Before the holidays arrive spend some time thinking about what makes interacting with your family difficult.   After you have done this you can better prepare for your visit.

 

•  Take time to slow yourself down.   Deep breathing, prayer, and meditation can help you take time to think about how to respond to family situations rather than automatically reacting to them.     

•  Bring a friend with you .   They can be there to support you and make sure that you stay safe.   You can also identify a family member that you get along with or care for and spend time with that person.

•  Finally, remember that now that you are an adult you can determine when you come and go.   You can go to another room to slow yourself down or even take a walk.   If you need or want to leave the celebration early, you can do that as well.  

 

This time of the year creates a highly charged atmosphere that is contagious.   It can be fun, energetic, and exciting.   But it can also create tension, anxiety, and stress.   Rather than allow the stress of the holiday season to overcome you, implement some of these

strategies and have a more satisfying holiday season.   Have a safe, relaxing, and healthy holiday season!

 

If you need additional or professional support during this time, consider connecting with a psychotherapist.

•  www.africanamericantherapist.com 

•  www.tonyaladipo.com            

•  www.psychologytoday.com

 

For full-length article (includes information about death and grief, alcohol, food, and depression) log onto www.tonyaladipo.com

 

 


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