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December 09, 2019

Here's how to alleviate the stress of the holiday season in a healthy way

Mental Health Stress
Holiday Stress Tips Heidi fin/

About 88% of Americans say the holidays stress them out.

Are you already feeling the stress of the holiday season? You are not alone. 

About 88% of Americans report feeling holiday stress, according to a study released last year. 

With all the shopping, baking and hosting duties that pop up at this time of year, you may find yourself indulging in a little more alcohol or sweet treats as a way to deal with all the holiday stress. But there are healthier ways to handle it.

This year, try some of these healthier coping strategies for the holiday season. They may help you better enjoy this special time of year. 

1. Acknowledge your feelingsWhether you are struggling with the stress of the season or other emotions, like grief or anger, never ignore them. They don't go away just because the holiday season has arrived. 

If this is the first holiday season without a parent or grandparent, or you are going through a divorce, it is natural to feel sad or angry. Be good to yourself and allow yourself time to process these feelings. Bottling them up only will lead to unhealthy behaviors. 

2. Reach out to others. Don't isolate yourself and dwell on all the negatives in your life. Go spend time with loved ones, possibly creating happy memories that you may remember for years to come.

3. Attend community or religious events. Another way to connect with people this holiday season is to get involved in local community or religious events. Mayo Clinic experts say they can offer support and companionship at a time when you may need it the most.

4. Volunteer your time. Becoming a volunteer at a local nonprofit organization can help lift your spirits. Nonprofithub says that volunteering relieves stress, provides a sense of purpose and can increase happiness.

5. Be realistic about expectations. Let go of the idea that everything must be perfect. You will be surprised by all the joy that can be found in all those little imperfect moments, like a messy and chaotic baking session with your kids.

6. Lay aside any grievances. If you and certain family members haven't been getting along lately, call a truce for holiday gatherings. Also, try not to let the little things get to you as much. Others could be struggling this too, so try to give people the benefit of the doubt.

7. Stick to a budget. Financial worries can be a big source of stress at this time of year. Remember that the holidays are about spending time together – not big, fancy gifts. Talk to family and friends about doing a more economical gift exchange or, if you are crafty, make homemade gifts this year.

8. Plan ahead as much as possible. Decide what parties and gatherings you want to attend. Then, just stick with those. You don't have to say yes to everything. Remember you are in control. Only commit to what adds to your happiness and sense of wellbeing. Make lists to keep track of everything. 

"Holidays are stressful even for people with even temperaments," Sherry Amantenstein, a PSYCOM contributing editor and therapist in New York says. "Setting aside some time to think about the events/activities that you enjoy most can guide you in taking small, concrete steps to accomplish them in a joyful way." 

9. Listen to your favorite music. "Research from the University of Maryland shows that hearing music you love can relax blood vessels and increase blood flow," according to It eases your anxiety and is good for your heart.

10. Limit your social media time. While social media is a good way to stay connected to people, too much of it also can contribute to feelings of stress and depression. Don't compare yourself or your life circumstances to what others are posting. Concentrate instead on finding joy in your own life.

If you find yourself really struggling this holiday season, don't be afraid to ask for professional help. The American Psychological Association also has a Holiday Resource Center that offers additional strategies to help you get through the holiday season.

(Sources include: Mayo ClinicHealth.comAmerican Psychological Association and

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