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Relax! Easy Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress

Try these simple ways to keep stress from overtaking the season.

woman relaxing on couch reading the paper

The holidays can be a source of great joy in our lives — with a mix of tradition, gifts, family and food.

But it can also bring stress from family conflict, busy schedules and demands on our wallet. And it doesn’t end with the holidays. Stress can really build up when we get those credit card charges in January from the holiday purchases we made.

Holidays are a well-known cause for stress for Americans. But experts say there are ways to minimize that stress and the harmful effects it can have on you — and on your health.

Have a game plan. Prioritize what’s important to you this holiday season, then get organized early to help save time later. If you know that certain items run out early, such as good wrapping paper and ribbons, make a note on your calendar to buy these items before the rush.

Set a budget. The demands on your wallet can be a big source of holiday stress. Rather than buying a gift for everyone, consider selecting a name from a hat and buying for that particular person. Set a budget and stick with it. Learn to say no. If you say yes to things you can’t afford, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed. Consider having an age-appropriate conversation with your kids about expectations and the value of money.

Take care of yourself. Remember to get your flu shot ahead of the holidays and wash your hands often. Eat a well-balanced diet, get plenty of sleep and stay active. The goal for most healthy adults is at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two days or more of strength training each week.*

Travel safely. Whether you’re planning to drive to the grocery store or a holiday party, remember to check the weather beforehand and buckle up. If you choose to drink alcohol at a holiday outing, make sure you do so in moderation.** And if you do drink alcohol, do not drive. Instead, ask someone you trust to drive you home.

Enjoy! What’s the real reason for the season? Sometimes, the meaning can get lost in the shuffle of holiday preparations. Remind yourself why you’re celebrating and savor that. Since there are so many good holiday concerts, school performances and activities at places of worship, consider picking a couple to enjoy during this special time of year.

Seek help. Find support from friends and family. If you feel sad, anxious, hopeless, irritable or overwhelmed for an extended period, consider seeking professional help. Trained mental health counselors can help you figure out why you’re stressed  or depressed and teach you ways to cope.

Note: If you or someone you know is feeling overwhelmed with stress or thinking about suicide, seek help right away. If someone is in immediate danger, call 911 or go to the closest emergency room. To talk with a trained counselor, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline any time at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

*If you’re pregnant, physically inactive or have a health condition such as arthritis, diabetes or heart disease, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program or increasing your activity level. He or she can tell you what types and amounts of activities are safe for you.

**Moderate drinking means no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two for men. Some people should not use alcohol at all.

By John Welsh, Contributing Writer

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Holiday health and safety tips. Accessed: September 17, 2018.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 physical activity guidelines for Americans. Accessed: September 17, 2018.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 12 health tips to light up your holidays. Accessed: September 17, 2018.
American Psychological Association. Tips for parents on managing holiday stress. Accessed: September 17, 2018.

Last Updated: September 17, 2018