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Tips for Handling Holiday Stress

If you’re feeling stressed this holiday season, you’re most likely not alone. Even during a normal holiday season as families prepare for traditional gatherings and gift exchanges, an increased level of stress is common. This year, COVID-19 and physical distancing have brought new stressors to the 2020 holiday season. Worries about increased COVID-19 cases and its potential impact can be overwhelming, especially among seniors who may find themselves feeling isolated or alone. While this year may be very different from what we’ve experienced in the past, it is possible to find some peace and even joy during this season.

Here are some tips from mental health professionals for ways to cope with stress during this year’s holiday season:

Acknowledge your feelings. Perhaps you’ve lost someone close to you or you can’t be with friends and loved ones, it’s normal to feel sadness and grief.  It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.

Recognize your holiday triggers. Financial pressures and increased personal demands are two common triggers. Be careful not to fall into unhealthy stress relievers, such as smoking, drinking or eating too much.

Give yourself a break. While doing things for others, don’t forget to take care of yourself. If you feel stress building, take a break – listen to calming music, watch a movie or take a brisk walk to unwind and recharge.

Reach out to your community. If you’re feeling lonely or isolated, seek contact with community or religious groups. Many associations have websites, online support groups, social media sites or virtual events to offer support and companionship.

Stick to an agreed upon budget. Before you do your gift shopping, decide how much money you can realistically spend and stick to your budget. Give thoughtful gifts which have a deeper meaning or consider donating to a favorite charity in someone’s name.

Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. Even though your holiday plans may look and feel different this year, find creative ways to celebrate.

Use technology to your advantage. Call, FaceTime or Zoom with family and friends to keep family rituals going. Set a date and time to make cookies, have a meal, or open presents. In the flurry of holiday activities, remember to savor the time with people you love.

Make time for your health. In the holiday rush of activities, don’t forget to take care of your health. Try to stay on your normal sleep routine, incorporate healthy foods into your diet and get regular exercise – even three 10-minute exercise breaks throughout the day can be beneficial.

Talk to you doctor. If you feel you’re unable to handle the onslaught of holiday stress, reach out to your doctor or health plan provider who can suggest other ways to help you manage unhealthy stress in your life.