16 Ways to Stress Free Holiday Season

From Forbes Magazine

During the holidays you have a lot going—a lot more than usual, anyway. The addition of travel, family and year-end work quotas can make you feel like the stress is piling on.

Psychologist Dr. Richard Bedrosian, Ph.D., is Director of Behavioral Health for Wellness & Prevention, Inc. and he recently spoke with Forbes about what people can do in their personal and professional lives to minimize the anxiety the holidays often bring. “A lot of stress in people’s everyday lives has to do with the number of things that begin to add up,” he said. “At holiday time people become sensitized to stress because they have more of a demand.”

But the good doctor has some tips to keep it all at bay. Here’s what he had to say…

1. Set A Mission and Stick to It

When a lot of tasks and issues are flying through your head, it helps to set one above the rest. “Remember why the holidays are really important to you,” writes Bedrosian. “If your mission is to connect with family, then being together is all that really matters – no matter where you are, or what you’re eating. If it’s rest and relaxation you’re after, then taking time for yourself is critical.” It’s OK to allow some other things to fall by the wayside, he added. “

2. Respect Your Limits

Don’t push yourself too much, says Bedrosian. You want to stay well clear of your breaking points. “If you are tired, rest.  If you are hungry, eat.  If you are overburdened with extra tasks for the holidays, try to let some of your other responsibilities slide for a few weeks.”

3. When Buying Gifts, Set a Budget

The holidays can be an expensive time. Making a budget for each person you buy gifts for can help, Bedrosian says.”If you tend to overspend, try to make all your purchases with cash.”

4. Don’t Worry About the Perfect Gift

“Some people really work very hard at trying to get the right thing, trying to be creative,” he explained. That effort can be taxing. “Most any gift can be returned or exchanged.” 

5. Make the Holidays More Low Key

A lot of families have annual holiday rituals. They may seem like they’re set in stone but they’re not. Minor changes to reduce stress are possible. “Perhaps you can get by this year without the ice sculptures in your yard or the open house for everyone in the neighborhood.  Going a year without sending cards is not going to ruin your relationships.”

6. Control Your Expectations

Your holiday is not going to be perfect. Stress will ebb if you accept that, says Bedrosian. “The pilaf may turn to mush while you are waiting for the turkey to cook.  The upstairs toilet may overflow in the middle of dinner. Your holidays may not look or feel like the “Hallmark moments” staged in television commercials, but if you stop looking for perfection, they can still be a wonderful time for you and your loved ones.”

7. Don’t Expect People to Change

They are who they are and you’re just going to have to make the best of the situation. “If Uncle Matty is crude and insulting every other day of the year, do not expect him to change during the holiday season.  Make your plans with his limitations in mind,” says the doctor. “Seat him at the end of the table, next to Grandma’s bad ear, where he can do the least amount of damage.”

8. Stay Away From Toxic People

The family and acquaintances you come in contact with during the holidays may not be the most relaxing to spend time with. Change your tactics to experience them in bite-sized portions. “Instead of being afraid of your brother’s road rage, think up a reason to travel in a separate car.  Stay at a hotel instead of your critical cousin’s house.  Invite your nosy neighbor over for dessert instead of dinner.”

 9. Renew Contact with Lost Friends

“There’s something about connecting with other human beings that has an intrinsic ability to help people reduce stress,” Dr. Bedrosian told FORBES.  Don’t focus on why or how you lost touch with those you’ve drifted away from—focus on the reestablishing of ties.  “Now is the time to let people know that you are thinking about them.”  If an amiable reconnection is not in the cards, the communication may at least bring about some closure.

10. Express Gratitude

Telling others you care about and value the –  and counting your blessing – can alleviate life anxiety. “In the last 20 to 30 years there’s a whole science called positive psychology that’s grown up that actually has begun to verify that this is a healthy thing for people to do.”

11. Connect with the Spiritual Part of the Holidays

“Don’t neglect to do things that put you and your family back in touch with the deeper significance of the holidays (e.g., going to services, helping the needy),” Bedrosian writes.

12. Be Careful Drinking Alcohol

“Watch your drinking, particularly if you have a tendency to become depressed,” said the doctor. “If you are already struggling with depression, consider not drinking at all.”

13. Be Careful Serving Alcohol

“The best way to ‘shut off’ someone who tends to drink too much is to limit the amount of alcohol you have available,” advises Bedrosian. “Keep only enough alcohol on hand to give everyone a drink or two.”

14. Avoid “preparing” to Eat A Big Meal

One of the most fun parts of the holidays can also be one of the most stressful: the food. If you find yourself skipping meals to be ready for big dinners, you can find yourself eating more. “Keep a regular meal routine.  If you are not overly hungry, you are less likely to overeat at a party or function.”

15. If You Eat Too Much, Don’t Beat Yourself Up

It is the holidays, after all, and only comes once a year. Forgive yourself an indulgence. “Your body resists changes that deviate from its genetically determined weight,” says Bedrosian. “If you eat a little more than normal, you will probably not gain weight.”

16. Expect A Letdown

All good things come to an end. To combat the emptiness that follows the end of the holiday season, make some fun plans. “Be sure to build some pleasurable activities into your January schedule, so you have something to look forward to.”