Stress :

How to Handle Holiday Stress

As the holiday season approaches, it represents, for many, one of the busiest and stressful times of the year.

For many, such as those in retail, the clergy or the helping professions, the weeks leading up to Christmas are times of almost nonstop activity.

For others, the added pressure of preparing for family visits, or for a journey to be with loved ones, buying gifts, baking the annual Christmas treats or decorating are tasks added to already busy lives.

Medical research shows that stress can lead to all sorts of harmful conditions, from headaches to insomnia to digestive, cardiovascular and respiratory disorders.

The good news is our bodies are equipped to handle stress in short spurts, such as trying to make Christmas a joyful and memorable time for those around us.

The bad news is, if the holiday stress is on top of a current lifestyle that is steeped in stress, it can lead to negative, and even disabling conditions.

The Mayo Clinic has a number of tips for dealing with holiday stress.

Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones.

Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all of your expectations.

Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Try these alternatives: Donate to a charity in someone's name, give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.

Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list.

Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed.

Don't abandon healthy habits. Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.

The suggestions are good ones. Christmas is a time where the focus is on worship, service to others and family. The experience of all three can be diminished by too much stress.

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