Taking The Stress Out Of The Holidays

Individual Counseling Insights brought to you by California Psychotherapeutic Resources, Inc.

Hanukkah is here and Christmas is coming. So… how’re you doing with your shopping? Unfortunately, shopping for presents for family and friends can turn a wonderful holiday season into a stress-filled scramble to find gifts for one and all. Throw in the added burden of wondering whether that Espresso machine you ordered online is stuck on a ship sitting in the harbor, and you can feel your blood pressure rising every passing moment.

Advice in an article from the American Psychological Association (APA) adds another element: “Finding the right gift for your friends or loved ones may be exciting. However, shoppers need to be cautious — excessive spending in pursuit of the ‘perfect’ holiday can be a source of more stress.” Indeed, everyone loves to see an expression of delight from a loved one when they open your present. But remember that the old truism “It’s the thought that counts” really does have a bit of truth in it. Your present doesn’t have to be perfect for your loved one to appreciate the sentiment behind the giving.

With that in mind, the APA offers some simple advice to lower your stress level this month.

Keep a holiday “to-do” list. Make a list of everyone you want to get a little something for. That way you won’t have the added stress of thinking you might accidentally forget someone. While you’re at it, make a list of all the little things you need to do — from picking up little-used cooking ingredients at the supermarket to ordering holiday cards.

Set realistic expectations. Of course you want to make every holiday as special as can be. But keep things in perspective. Do you really remember every little thing that went wrong or right last year? Probably not. Focus on getting the big things right and keep lists for all those little tasks.

Know yourself. Everyone is different. If you remember certain things that have driven you crazy in the past — even if they didn’t bother anyone else — make the effort to avoid making mistakes that really bother you. Get rid of the things that cause you stress!

Recognize how you deal with stress. Whether it’s having an extra cocktail or yelling at the kids, you probably know how you react to stress. If it’s an unhealthy reaction, pay careful attention not only to what is causing the stress but also how you’re reacting to it.

Take care of yourself. No matter how much you plan or prepare, the holidays just seem to have built-in stressful situations. Accept that, and then commit yourself to some healthy stress relievers. Whether it’s walking, meditating or listening to music, make time for yourself to maintain some healthy habits.

And then enjoy the holidays – Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!