Mind & Body
How to Handle Holiday Stress
12/1/2020 1:00:00 PM

The holiday season is so much fun for many people. However, for others, family get-togethers, holiday shopping, cooking and more make them feel stressed and anxious. Holiday stress is a real thing and it’s something that mental health professionals help their patients with during December. How can you help yourself feel better?


Vinay Saranga M.D., psychiatrist and founder of Saranga Comprehensive Psychiatry, offers these tips:


Breathe: To reduce stress and anxiety, slow your breathing. When we are stressed, overwhelmed, or worried, our breathing tends to get fast and shallow. This makes us feel worse than we already feel. Focus on slowing down your breathing. Breath in through the diaphragm (stomach area), hold for a few seconds, and slowly exhale through the lips.


Mindfulness: When you worry about holiday preparations, gift buying, or uncomfortable topics of conversation with family you don’t see often, practice mindfulness. This is the act of being present and immersing yourself in the present moment. It’s easy to dwell on the past and worry about the future, but being in the present moment is the best place to focus your energy.


Take a break: The holidays can be overwhelming for many people. It’s okay to take a break. Go for a walk. Take a drive and turn up the tunes. Hit the gym. Surf the web. Go to your favorite place and just people watch. It doesn’t matter what you do. If you feel your anxiety levels rising, take a break from what you’re doing and connect to something that makes you feel good.


Avoid controversial issues: There’s nothing like a heated debate over things like politics or religion to ruin what should be a nice family gathering and stress you out. If a topic feels uncomfortable, or if you know that people have different points of views, avoid those conversations. Focus dialogue on TV shows, movies, music, books, reliving memories and other interesting topics.


Get outdoors: It’s easy to get stuck inside watching the parades and footballs games, but getting some fresh air and a little activity can be good for everyone. Plan outdoor games. Go for a bike ride or a walk around the block. Watch the kids get involved in an activity. A little fresh air can relieve holiday stress and tension.


Comfort yourself: Whether you dislike family get-togethers or large gatherings simply stress you out, be kind to yourself with the language you choose. Remind yourself that it’s only a few hours and you can get through it. Spend time around the people with whom you have the most in common or the ones who don’t stress you out as much. Remember to smile as this not only makes you appear to be enjoying yourself, it really will help you feel better.


Stay on your meds and keep doctor appointments: The holidays and festivities can be tough for many people, but even more so if you suffer with a mental health issue. The holiday season is not the time to come off your medication. Keep all doctor appointments and stick to your therapeutic routine.


Take a trip: If the holiday season stresses you out too much, it’s okay to tell people that this year you plan to take a family vacation. It is perfectly acceptable to go on a cruise, head to the mountains or the destination of your choice. Putting the needs of you and your family first is not being selfish.


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Categories: Stress

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