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Limit Your Stress This Holiday Season

By HERWriter
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Mental Health related image Photo: Getty Images

It’s that time of year again. With winter comes nice weather (at least in Arizona), holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the dreaded stress that is associated with holiday preparation.

But have no fear, there are many experts that have tips to help you avoid and cope with stress and anxiety around the holidays. Just make sure to put in an effort this year and not let your emotions overwhelm you, by following their advice.

Stephanie Mansour, the CEO of Step It Up With Steph and a health and fitness expert, suggests getting some exercise during difficult holiday times.

“After a family meal, make it a requirement that after you help clean up, you go outside for a brisk walk,” Mansour said in an email. “Tell your family (who you may be annoyed with) that it's part of your new healthy lifestyle program and it's good for digestion (it is).”

She also suggests making time for yourself even in the middle of the holiday hustle and bustle. If needed, you can even set up a time slot on your calendar for exercising, stretching or meditation. It’s important to keep yourself healthy both physically and mentally throughout the holiday season.

“Learn to say ‘no’ without feeling guilty,” Mansour added. “Know your limits and don't take on other peoples' emotions. It's OK to turn down a couple of events - take control of your own schedule.”

Leslie Davenport, an author and psychotherapist specializing in stress management, suggested in an email that it’s important to figure out what’s best for you during the holiday season and encourage others to do the same. This includes creating new traditions and also making sure you stick to your values.

“Invite those close to you to have a holiday ‘makeover,’ finding ways to celebrate that are expressive of current interests and budgets,” Davenport said. “Depression and anxiety triggered by the holidays are often [expectations] imposed by what others think you should be doing, which can get reinforced by the media. Suggest gifts and activities that support, rather than oppose, the life you are creating.”

Sarah Welch, the co-founder of the website GetButtonedUp.com, a website devoted to helping busy women stay organized, encourages women to consider time-saving and planning strategies to avoid stress, such as having a potluck-style gathering and planning gifts before you start shopping. Also, make sure to plan what you really want to do this holiday season.

“Reflect on your priorities, before the season gets too far underway,” Welch said in an email. “You don’t have to do something, like buy gifts for every colleague or bake cookies for all of your neighbors, just [because] that’s the way you’ve ‘always done it.’”

Patricia Farrell, a licensed psychologist, said in an email that despite the rush of the holidays, you can’t forget the basics.

“Don't forget that you need two things which are very important now: sleep and exercise,” Farrell said. “Yes, exercise because it not only helps you get rid of much of that stress, clears your mind and gets your body moving with mood-elevating hormones and helps your immune system, too.”

Also, holidays are not the time to become unrealistic.

“You don't have to be the ‘perfect’ anything, just a normal woman who can only take on so much,” Farrell said. “Perfection is the trap that anyone can fall into and it's really not ‘normal.’ All of us are imperfect, so see that as permission to do what you can and let others stress out about being ‘perfect.’ Even Martha Stewart has hoards of helpers.”

Susan Fletcher, a pschologist and author of “Working in the Smart Zone,” said in an email that you can decrease stress associated with getting the perfect present for everyone by having different gift themes, like getting lotion and body spray for female friends, as well as maybe photos with creative frames one year, and nice candles another year. She also suggests buying at least some food from the store and not feeling the need to bake and cook everything yourself.

Sharon Rivkin, a conflict resolution and affairs expert, as well as a licensed marriage and family therapist, said in an email that just because it’s the holidays, you don’t need to feel obliged to do certain things.

“Remember that you have choices,” Rivkin said. “There is no rule book that says we need to be with our families during the holidays or how long we need to visit with them. If things are simply too stressful with your family, either don't arrange a visit, or limit the time you spend with them.”


Mansour, Stephanie. Email interview. Nov. 2, 2011.

Davenport, Leslie. Email interview. Nov. 2, 2011.

Welch, Sarah. Email interview. Nov. 2, 2011.

Farrell, Patricia. Email interview. Nov. 2, 2011.

Fletcher, Susan. Email interview. Nov. 2, 2011.

Rivkin, Sharon. Email interview. Nov. 2, 2011.

Reviewed November 3, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.