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Managing stress during the holidays

PAM EVERETTE

As we approach the holiday season, this should be a time of joy and fun, but many times this is a time when people experience stress.

Planning for the holidays can leave us feeling impatient, cranky, stressed and, in some cases, depressed. The obligations that go along with the holiday season can bring forth anxiety and worry for many. It is important to recognize what is causing you stress and find ways to cope so you can enjoy the holiday season.

Buying gifts for your family and friends can cause a strain on your finances. It is important to set a budget during the holiday season. To help prevent stress over money during the holidays, plan ahead, review your finances and develop a realistic budget. Don’t put yourself in debt buying gifts during the holidays. Time with family and friends can many times be more of a gift to them than a physical gift.

Always ensure that you take time for yourself: even 15 minutes can have a major impact on your mental health. Time to yourself is a great way to cope with stress during the holidays. It allows you to take a breather and clear your mind whether that is by taking a walk, listening to relaxing music or getting a massage. Even though it may seem that you have no free time, it is important to get plenty of exercise. The endorphins triggered by exercises are natural painkillers and create positive feelings within the body. This reduces anxiety and stress.

Don’t try to take on everything alone. Reach out and delegate to other family members. You do not have to take it all on. Take a moment and make a list to review everything that you need to get done. Setting aside some time to think about the activities that you enjoy most can guide you in taking small, concrete steps to accomplish them joyfully. Then, deal with one thing at a time, otherwise it’s easy to get overwhelmed. While those large meals and sugary snacks are tempting, don’t abandon all of your healthy eating habits. Overindulgence will add to your stress.

If you are feeling alone or isolated during the holiday season, it is important to reach out to others. Seek out community, religious or other social events. They can be supportive and offer companionship. Volunteering your time to help others during the holiday season is also another way to lift your spirits. It is also important to be realistic and set aside differences. Tradition and rituals change over time, so it is important to adapt and be open to creating new ones. When you are flexible, you realize that not everything will always turn out the way you hoped it would, but being flexible helps you realize that if things turn out differently, it’s not the end of the world. Realizing that you and members of your family may have differing opinions, it is important to set those aside and focus on the quality time together.

During, the holiday season we can become overwhelmed. It is OK to say no and not overschedule ourselves. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. You may not be able to participate in every event or activity. Don’t let the holidays become something you dread. Be aware and take the steps to prevent stress during the holidays. Learn to recognize any triggers you may have so you can combat them before they get to you. We all get so wrapped up in things being perfect for the holidays that we forget to focus on the real meaning of the holidays and do things with love.

Pam Everette, RN, is nurse manager of the ICU and Surgical Unit at Vidant Beaufort Hospital and can be reached by calling 252-975-4100.