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How to Manage Stress During the Holidays

Holiday season is just around the corner which means you may be more stressed than usual. This can cause others around you to become stressed as well, or maybe put you in a not-so-cheery mood. Lucky for you, we have some tips and trick about how to manage your stress for the holidays!

First things first, understand that you will be stressed and that’s okay! Some stress is important for your body to function, we call this eustress. This is the type of stress that comes upon us during an exciting moment or during something new and without this, our well-being can suffer. This helps keep us motivated, goal oriented, and gives us a good feeling about life. During the holidays you may feel this eustress when you spend time with loved ones, are opening gifts, or possibly even during holiday traveling. Just know that what you are feeling in that moment is exactly what you should be and is an important part of keeping yourself healthy.

Secondly, distress is the kind of stress that we want to try to avoid. Distress often leaves you feeling overwhelmed, uneasy, and can sometimes make you either lash-out or even shut down. This is the type of stress you should try to avoid during the holidays and if you can’t avoid it, here are some tips on how to cope with it and manage it better.

  1. Avoiding Triggers The holidays often come with social drinking or other activities, and for someone who has been through recovery or is currently in recovery, this can be a hard time for them. Even for someone who hasn’t been through recovery but is just trying to cut back on their drinking or any other addiction, this can be difficult. The best way to avoid triggers is to first understand and identify your them and then learn your signs of being stressed. This will help you better understand what to avoid at your family gathering and knowing the signs of being stressed will help you take control of the situation. If you know there will be alcohol at your holiday gathering, opt out and choose a non-alcoholic drink such as a sparkling water or grape juice. Other triggers, such as smoking, can also be a big part of holidays. Many people choose to smoke to help ease their stress which just the sight alone can trigger someone wanting to quit. Bring a pack of gum and keep a drink, such as water or juice, on hand to help reduce that urge. It may also be a good idea to inform those you are visiting that you are trying to quit smoking and to please not smoke around you. Another way to avoid any triggers is to opt-in for a virtual holiday with your family and loved ones. Sometimes being around a large group of people can set off a trigger for someone in sobriety. If you are worried about not being able to control your urges if you are around others, join in the holiday fun via a web call. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, online gathering has been popular and just because we aren’t in the heat of the pandemic doesn’t mean you can’t utilize those options. Set up a call via Skype, Zoom, or Facetime so you can still celebrate with loved ones without having to deal with the social stressors.

  2. Prioritize Your Health Indulging during the holidays often happens and can be difficult to manage for anyone, especially those trying to lose weight or better their health. However, there are many ways to help you during this time to keep you on track to prioritize your health. You know there will be lots of yummy foods and you might be tempted to load up on those without thinking about it. Instead, try to pick out more fruits and vegetables and limit your alcohol intake. Another great tip is to stay at least an arm’s length or two away from the snack/goodie table. It might be tempting to just reach over and continuously grab a handful of candy or chips, so staying further away can help reduce that intake. It also might be a good idea to bring your own snacks! Nuts, fruits, veggies, and even popcorn can satisfy those cravings while keeping you energized. Maintaining your physical health, aside from eating healthy, can also be difficult during the holidays. Watching the kids open gifts? Try standing up instead of sitting on the couch. Having a social gathering with family? Walk around the room and visit with more than one group to keep you active. Wanting to watch your favorite show? Try a short simple workout such as jumping jacks, squats, or lunges while you are watching to keep your mind and body engaged. Kids want to go outside to play? Join in! There are many ways you can stay physically active this holiday and all it takes is a little bit of drive and motivation to keep you going.

  3. Managing Expectations Holiday expectations may change over the years with kids getting older, families growing and changing, or possible financial situations changing. It’s important to understand your expectations for the holidays to keep you and your family on the same page. Traditions are very popular during the holidays so re-evaluating those is important to keep the stress off your shoulders. Do you often feel overwhelmed with planning a huge event? Maybe take it down a notch this year and host something smaller or divide the planning between several people. This can help ease the workload of planning and keep things simple. To get a better idea of what to plan for the holidays, get together with your family as early as possible to talk about your holiday plans. Where you are going, what to bring, how many days you will be gone, and who to expect to see are all focal points to talk about with your family so you are all on the same page about the holidays. Financial expectations can also be hard to manage during the holidays, especially if you have multiple people you want to buy gifts for. To help ease your financial stress, create a realistic holiday budget that is easy to follow. Calculate how much you want to spend for each person, travel expenses, or any other holiday related expense and write it down. Once you create this list, look it over and determine if that is a reasonable cost and make adjustments if needed. Creating gift boundaries is another great way to help ease financial stress. For example, discuss the number of gifts and the price range with your significant other or family before buying gifts. Setting a dollar limit for each person and reducing the number of gifts can help you save more money. When doing this, you may want to inform your family about your new plan, so they understand your situation and are willing to work with you. If you have family members that insist on spending more on gifts than you are comfortable, come up with a solution to put the money elsewhere such as education needs for your kids or saving that money for the next year.

Holidays are bound to come with some type of stress whether that’s good or bad. Using these tips and tricks can help you from being overwhelmed or fall back into bad habits. It’s always a good idea to designate a trusted person in your family to be your accountability tracker to keep you on the path you want to stay on. Whether it’s taking a non-alcoholic drink, eating healthier, or spending less, nothing limits you to the fun of the holiday season when you are content with your choices and surrounded by those you love.


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