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How you can manage holiday stress

Senior Wellness | Nov 14, 2016

The holidays are supposed to be when families and friends can come together and enjoy each other's company.

A lot of work goes into planning the perfect gatherings. In that time, it's easy to find yourself under pressure. For every laugh and smile you crack at the dinner table, there may be just as many frustrating moments that precede that payoff.

Don't let stress get the best of you during the holidays by following these basic guidelines.

You don't have to be perfect

We all want to organize the perfect dinner or gift drive at this time of the year. But the reality is far different from expectations. Striving for perfection can cause you to become overly stressed out, according to The Mayo Clinic.

"Set reasonable expectation levels."

You want to set reasonable expectation levels while reminding yourself that everything may not go according to plan. For example, if the supermarket is out of a particular type of ham, consider trying something new or head to another store.

Holiday traditions are something everyone looks forward to, and they're a big part of why November and December are so loved. However, traditions may not always last and if you're always seeking to uphold them or replicate prior holiday gatherings, you'll stress yourself out.

Instead, try new foods or ideas. You may even start a new holiday tradition.

Avoid financial mishaps

Money stresses anyone out and it's easy to overspend while out shopping for gifts and food. Those spur-of-the-moment purchases will then come back in the form of larger credit card payments.

You can avoid building debt by sticking to a holiday budget. Set aside a little extra from every paycheck to help cover higher expenses.

Use time wisely

Between family gatherings, dinners with friends and more, it's easy to see why the last two months of the year are a blur.

Updating your calendar with events and obligations is a smart move. But you don't have to attend everything you're invited to. You'll burn yourself out by always running around and not getting enough sleep — two factors that increase stress.

The Cleveland Clinic recommended you simplify commitments while also setting time aside for yourself. This can entail physically working out before visiting your children or simply relaxing on the couch before the grandkids come by.

"Simplify commitments while also setting time aside for yourself."

Remembering to set time aside for yourself can often be difficult, but you can do so without much planning. Simply spending 15 minutes every day by yourself can help you collect your thoughts and mentally recharge. Solo activities for you to consider include:

  • Going for a walk
  • Reading a book, magazine, newspaper or online article
  • Scheduling and receiving a massage
  • Relaxing to minimal and calm music

A different type of stress

Not everyone stresses over the same things. Around this time of the year, you may instead find yourself dealing with a sense of dread because of loneliness, sadness or anger.

Whether you've recently lost a loved one or the holidays always end in a family fight, you can take steps to cope with this trepidation. Don't hesitate to find a friend or doctor to talk to. You may find it relieving to get personal details off your chest.

Another coping mechanism is traveling. Go someplace you've never been and spend the holiday season exploring. Getting through the next two months may feel tough, but you can do it.

November and December can often be a tale of two stories. On one hand, we're able to share laughs, stories and more with friends and family. On the other, cooking, shopping, organizing and dealing with feelings of loneliness can all contribute to higher stress levels.

You need to care for yourself during the holidays, because doing so helps reduce stress and make for more enjoyable experiences.