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Six Tips to Handle Holiday Season Stress

The holiday season is full of good cheer, family time…and stress. If the thought of overspending on presents or gathering with your relatives keeps you up at night, you’re not alone! In fact, a recent poll reveals that nearly 80 percent of people find the holidays “somewhat” or “very” stressful.

Fortunately, a few simple tips can help you enjoy your most stress-free holiday season yet.

1. Recognize the causes and symptoms.

The holidays are a time of increased expectations. There’s the pressure to find the perfect gifts, to say yes to all the social gatherings and traditions, to cook a memorable meal, to travel across the country to visit family…the list goes on! When it comes to signs, holiday stress looks a lot like everyday stress. Symptoms may include anxiety, changes in sleep, irritability, sadness, and head or body aches. If you can identify potential triggers for and symptoms of your own stress, it’ll help you be more prepared to manage it.

2. Plan ahead.

Before you start filling up your calendar, think about the priorities for you and your family. Do you want to celebrate Friendsgiving with your best friends? Is it important that you have time to check out the Christmas lights in your neighborhood? Do you want to have a few low-key nights at home to enjoy your favorite holiday movies? An action plan will help relieve some of the stress that comes with planning with the weeks ahead.

3. Make time for self-care.

You can’t take care of everyone else if you don’t take care of yourself during this season of giving! Set aside some time to fill your own cup, whether it’s a long morning walk, a stop at your favorite coffee shop, or an afternoon curled up in front of the fire with a good book. Be sure to get enough sleep too. It’s often one of the first things to suffer when you’re overwhelmed.

4. Track your finances.

Plan your budget just like you plan your calendar. Set aside a realistic number for holiday expenses and stick to it. If you can’t afford to buy something for everyone in your life, consider baking a special treat or offering up your talents and time. Remember: The thought behind the gift is more important than the cost.

5. Don’t be afraid to say no.

Only say yes to the events and activities that bring you and your family joy. If a friend invites you to a last-minute holiday party, it’s okay to say no and spend the night at home instead. If a relative expects you to bring a homemade pie to Thanksgiving, but you simply don’t have time, it’s okay to say no and grab a store-bought dessert on your way there. Remember to take a deep breath and do what’s best for you!

6. Seek professional help if needed.

If you’ve tried the tips above and are still struggling, it may be time to ask for help. A mental health professional can dig deeper into your triggers and offer more personalized coping mechanisms for the holiday season ahead.

If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, reach out to Dr. Kelli Malkasian, PsyD, CEDS at Coral Reef Counseling, and schedule a free consultation or telehealth appointment today.

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