Tips to Manage Stress During The Holidays

E. Christine Moll, chair and professor of counseling and human services at Canisius College in Buffalo, and a mental health counselor, says that for many the holidays are a time of stress, loneliness, anxiety and dysfunction. “Suicide rates rise 10 percent during the season.”

So what does one do when it’s the season to be jolly yet you’re feeling anything but?

“When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup,” says Moll. “Take steps to help prevent normal holiday depression from progressing into chronic depression.” Moll suggests the following tips:

* Make a plan well in advance of the season. “Try to maintain healthy habits such as exercise, getting adequate sleep and good nutrition. Make “me” time.”

*Acknowledge your feelings. “If a loved one has recently died or you aren’t near your loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness or grief. It’s OK now and then to take time just to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.”

* Seek support. “If you feel isolated or down, seek out family members and friends, or community, religious or social services. They can offer support and companionship. Consider volunteering at a community or religious function. Getting involved and helping others can lift your spirits and broaden your social circle. Also, enlist support for organizing holiday gatherings, as well as meal preparation and cleanup. You don’t have to go it alone. Don’t be a martyr.”woman stressed

* Be realistic. “As families change and grow, traditions often change as well. Hold on to those you can and want to. But understand in some cases that may no longer be possible. Perhaps your entire extended family can’t gather together at your house. Instead, find new ways to celebrate together from afar, such as sharing pictures, emails or videotapes.”

* Set differences aside. “Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. With stress and activity levels high, the holidays might not be conducive to making quality time for relationships. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress too.”

* Stick to a budget. “Before you go shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend on gifts and other items. Then be sure to stick to your budget. If you don’t, you could feel anxious and tense for months afterward as you struggle to pay the bills. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. 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 one big food-shopping trip. That will help prevent a last-minute scramble to buy forgotten ingredients — and you’ll have time to make another pie if the first one’s a flop. Allow extra time for travel so that delays won’t worsen your stress.”