The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

December 2, 2013

Practical tips to reduce holiday stress


— Thanksgiving is over and now the holiday season is in full swing.

Is it any surprise that from mid-November to the week after New Year’s Eve is the most stressful time of year?

Are you dreading the upcoming holiday season? Then try some of these practical tips to reduce your stress.

First, acknowledge how you are feeling. If you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed by the mere idea of getting prepared for the holiday, admit it.

Talk to your loved ones or a close friend and explain how you feel.

Then make sure that you get organized and make a plan to help alleviate feeling overwhelmed.

Plan out your weekly menus, make grocery and gift buying lists — stick to your budget!

Studies show that people who engage in more impulse buying during the holidays also have higher stress levels.

Look at your buying habits and if you become more stressed in a store with crowds, choose a time of day or evening when the stores are less busy.

If shopping for everything at once seems overwhelming, break your shopping trips into shorter visits to the store buying fewer items.

Learn to say NO. As easy as that sounds, it is hard to say no to holiday invitations, parties, family, children and co-workers.

This time of year also brings more phone calls and mail from charities asking for your help.

Decide ahead of time what you can give monetarily and how you want to spend your free time with friends and relatives.

Don’t be afraid to change a tradition. If exchanging gifts among friends or relatives was in your budget in the past but you have experienced a layoff or job change that reduces your budget then speak up.

Don’t be bullied into spending more than you can afford.

Remember, exchanging gifts should not be about how much money you spend but the thought that counts.

Be realistic. There isn’t a rule, law, or format for a “perfect” holiday.

Sometimes the turkey gets over cooked, the pies don’t turn out right, or your brothers are not speaking to each other.

It will be alright if you realize that there are some things that we just can’t control in life.

It is also important that your children learn how you adjust and solve problems that arise during stressful times.

Learn how to have a back-up plan. Maybe the store is out of the toy your child wanted but the store can get the second toy on his list.

Make that the first one and plan on getting the other one for your child’s birthday instead.

Try not to make the emphasis on what you can’t do but rather on what you can do.

Finally, if your feelings of sadness and depression don’t seem to be going away, be sure to reach out to find some professional help.

Call your doctor, clergy, or the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board for a recommendation or dial 2-1-1 for a list of mental health professional in your area.

Don’t wait until you feel you can’t cope, help is just a phone call away.

This holiday season, take time for your own mental health and make sure you make time for yourself.

Take a walk, read, or listen to soothing music or heavy metal as long as it makes you feel better.

Reduce the stress in your life and the holidays will be much happier and healthier because you are taking care of yourself.

Remember, education and prevention are keys to keeping us safe and stress-free.