Healthy Coping Mechanisms for Dealing with Holiday Stress

Everyone feels at least a little bit of added stress over the holidays. Whether youíre stressing over your budget or a growing list of gift recipients, fretting over whether your mother-in-law will approve of your pumpkin pie, or spending seemingly endless nights trying to finish your last-minute wrapping, there are plenty of stressors coming from every angle over the holiday season.

Whatever the cause of your stress this holiday season, find some healthy coping mechanisms that can lessen your symptoms rather than turning to alcohol or less-healthy means of coping that could end up doing more harm than good. Here are a few healthy alternative methods to better manage your stress.

Identify Stress Triggers and Find Ways to Work Around Them

There are all kinds of things that stress some people out over the holidays. The key to beating holiday stress is to know what your triggers are and plan ahead to avoid them. For instance, if you frequently go over-budget and then stress out over finances, set a specific budget before you even start shopping. Search for deals. Additionally, there are many apps that help you bargain shop without driving to 12 different stores and battling crowds.

Donít know what to buy someone? Keep it simple. Ask them what theyíd like. Schedule your time wisely to avoid feeling the guilt associated with running late or missing events. Have a potluck instead of preparing the entire holiday meal yourself.

If youíre recovering from an addiction to alcohol or drugs, confide in someone who will be at many of the same functions youíll be attending. A partner, cousin, or old friend can be a valuable support system when youíre surrounded by alcohol and excessive drinking. There are almost always strategies for minimizing some of the stress you feel around the holidays.

Find Ways to Lift Your Spirits if Youíre Experiencing the Holiday Blues

Many people experience the holiday blues, or feelings of sadness, loneliness, or disappointment around the holidays. People working through addiction recovery may experience these emotions around the holidays as they think about people with whom their relationships are now strained. People who live with depression and anxiety throughout the year may also be more likely to experience exacerbated feelings of sadness through the holiday season. Finally, some people get a case of the holiday blues for seemingly no reason at all.

These feelings may stem from certain expectations about the holiday season, leaving you disappointed when things donít go quite as planned. They can also arise from the sadness you experience when itís time to say goodbye to family and friends who live far away, or from a general disappointment that after all the preparation, the holiday season is over in the blink of an eye.

Whatever the cause of your sadness around this time of year, there are several strategies that can lift your spirits, such as:

        Setting realistic expectations about the holidays. Feelings of disappointment may stem from expectations and desires that arenít likely to come to fruition. Instead of hoping for the near-impossible, such as relatives that actually get along for an entire week under the same roof, think about how to tone down your expectations to a more realistic level.

        Taking a vacation with a friend or loved one. Sometimes, an escape from reality, even for just a few days, is enough to recharge your mind and body.

        Remaining physically active, perhaps by taking frequent brisk walks to clear your mind. Try other forms of exercise, such as yoga, Pilates, or tai chi to clear your mind. If youíre in the mood for a stress-busting cardio workout, sign up for a kickboxing class or take up running or jogging.

        Reflecting on the things that you have to be grateful for today rather than focusing on past hurts and disappointments.

        Journaling, a process that proves cathartic for many people. Writing down fears and anxieties can help you let things go, rather than confronting a loved one about something that may later seem insignificant.

        Reaching out and asking for help. Thereís no shame in feelings of sadness and depression around the holidays; many people have similar experiences.

There are many different ways to combat stress and sadness over the holidays. Anticipating probable causes of stress, finding ways to avoid them, and identifying coping strategies that work for you is the best approach to beating holiday stress for an enjoyable season.

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