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Health & Wellness

5 Ways to De-Stress During the Holidays

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Planning holiday parties, cooking for family and shopping for the perfect gift can create stress at a time when you expect to feel joyful.

“No matter what holiday you celebrate, pressure to spend too much, eat too much and socialize in ways you don’t like can turn holidays into a nightmare for some,” says Tina B. Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist and author of It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction. “If your holiday expectations are out of line with what you can really accomplish you’ll be stressed.”

To reduce tension and keep the peace at family gatherings, Tessina suggests the following:

1. Treat your family as guests

“If the (annoying or argumentative) person were a dear friend of yours you wouldn’t get upset, you’d be polite and try to deflect things,” says Tessina. “That’s a great way to handle your own family.” Plus, keep people busy by placing photo albums around to look through, a tree to decorate, puzzles to put together, etc. 

2. Lighten up expectations

Understand that this is your real life, not a picture-book experience, says Tessina. “Family or friends may squabble, food may not turn out perfect, and gifts may not go over as well as people hope. Keep a sense of humor about you.” Focus less on spending money or decorating and more on spending time together, doing things you love.

3. Ask for help

To avoid feeling overwhelmed, get other people engaged in the happenings and in sharing the work. “You'll find that a lot of camaraderie comes out of working together, and a lot of the holiday fun will happen behind the scenes as you work with others to get ready,” says Tessina. Plus, family and friends will feel more a part of the celebration if they actually create part of it.

4. Find new traditions that work for you

Question how you have done things in the past that have brought distress and discontent, says Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, psychotherapist and author or Better Than Perfect: 7 Steps To Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love.  “Don’t like going to your in-laws for a week?  Then don’t; it’s okay.” 

5. Exercise

Lack of time makes it tempting to skip your regular workouts, but exercise can improve mood as effectively and reduce stress, says Lombardo. “It also gives you lots of positive energy and helps ward off the holiday weight gain.”  Schedule time to exercise, whether going for a family walk or putting on some good music while you are home and dancing around. 

Additional responsibilities can add more stress on top of an already busy life, says Lombardo. “So it’s important to plan a reward for yourself after a particularly stressful event, such as a holiday shopping. It will help alter your mindset knowing you have a massage scheduled for tomorrow.”

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