Managing Stress During the Holidays

Dr. Heidi Hepp practices family medicine at the Banner Health Clinic on Madison Square Drive in Loveland, Colo.

Question: The holidays can be a stressful time for me and many others. What recommendations do you have for alleviating or managing stress during the holiday season?

Answer: The holidays are meant to bring cheer and good tidings. However, for many, the holiday spirit can give way to holiday stress. Family demands, expenses, travel, and the frantic pace of preparation can become overwhelming. Anxiety, loneliness, and depression can also surface during what should be a season of joy. We often think this stress will pass, but that is not always the case. When stress is ignored and bottled up, not only can it be mentally and emotionally straining, but it can also be harmful your health.

The good news is there are a number of things you can do to cope with stress and keep it from spoiling your holidays and your health. Here are a few recommendations:

  1. Plan ahead. Mapping out responsibilities and activities ahead of time can help you avoid last minute scrambling. Designate certain days or specific times to complete all of the to-dos on your list. And if necessary, be willing to say no when your schedule is full. 
  2. Don’t fret over tradition. We often try to maintain traditions with the hope of recreating fond memories from previous years. But our lives, families, and circumstances typically change with each year. Pressing to recreate the past or provide others with the perfect holiday experience can trigger stress. Be flexible and open to starting new traditions and creating new memories.  
  3. Maintain healthy habits. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and let healthy habits fall by the wayside. Trading healthy choices for overindulgence leads to guilt and even more stress. Enjoy yourself, just not to excess.
  4. Connect with family and friends (and set aside differences). This time of year can be especially lonely, sad, and anxious for people with strained relationships. Troubled relationships often require time to mend, but the holidays offer an ideal time to put differences aside and initiate the healing process.
  5. Ask for help. Asking for help from others when you’re overwhelmed is not a sign of weakness; it is simply an honest recognition that you need people in your life – just as they need you. So, ask for help and accept the kindness of others. Sometimes stress can exceed what we are able to manage, even with the support of family and friends. In times like these, reach out to your healthcare provider or a mental health professional. There are numerous professional resources available and there is no need for you to battle stress alone.

If you have any questions or concerns about how to alleviate or manage stress during the holiday seasons, do not hesitate to talk with your healthcare provider. To find a primary care provider in a Banner Health Center near you, please visit their website. Have a happy and safe holiday season

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