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Happy Holidays: How to keep your holidays happy

Happy Santas
Happy Santas
Getty Images/ Photo by Dan Kitwood

Christmas, Ashura, Hanukkah, New Year’s … Holidays can be a time of social gatherings, celebration and excitement. For others, the holidays can be a source of overwhelming stress and even dread. If you fall into the latter category, read on for a variety of suggestions that might help you navigate the holidays successfully, and more importantly, happily.

Below is a list of possible sources of holiday stress:

  • Time pressures
  • Family problems
  • Financial strain
  • Shopping
  • Inclement weather
  • Recent loss (job, death of a loved one)
  • Children

If any (or all) of the above resonate with you, evaluate how you are dealing with the holiday stress. Do you find that you are managing all of your responsibilities satisfactorily, or do you need some new ways to cope because you feel a sense of dread in the midst of the holiday season?

Here are some signs that you might need some help coping better this holiday season:

  • Abusing drugs and alcohol
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Frequent illnesses
  • Lashing out at loved ones
  • Engaging in self-destructive behaviors
  • Avoiding problems

Here are some techniques to try to have a happier and healthier holiday

  • Manage your time. Organize all of your responsibilities and tasks and then prioritize them so you can determine what you need to do first, second, etc., and what can wait until after the holiday season.
  • Say no to excessive requests. If you do not have time to commit to one more party or social event, say no. Try not to spread yourself too thin.
  • Maintain your physical health. Get adequate sleep, exercise and nutrition. Limit or eliminate your use of alcohol and avoid using illicit drugs.
  • Take time for you. Set aside time each day to do something you actually enjoy. If holiday shopping brings you more stress than pleasure, plan to unwind afterwards with a friend or a good book.
  • Evaluate your expectations. Make sure your expectations are realistic. If money is tight this year, determine how much you can allot for gifts and don’t go over. If you are planning to go to all 15 of the holiday parties you have been invited to, limit your “yes” responses to those you actually have time (and energy) for.
  • Communicate. Work on managing differences with family and friends. Communicate your expectations and try to be flexible with others. Find middle ground; most things do not work with an all-or-none approach.
  • Grieve. If you have had a significant loss in the past year, set time aside to grieve. Remember your loved one in a way that feels comfortable to you. Some ideas are going with family or friends to the gravesite, having people share fond memories of the deceased person, or setting a place at the table for the person who has died.
  • Be mindful. Do not let the holidays fly by without taking the time to stop and actually enjoy them. Treasure the time you have with loved ones, watch a joyful child open up a long-awaited for present, and savor the flavors of the season.

For more information:

65 ways to reduce holiday stress

Stress, depression and the holidays: 10 tips for coping

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