Managing Holiday Stress

The holidays are an exciting time for many people. There are lots of things to look forward to – Christmas parties with friends, families and co-workers, boxes and boxes of chocolates, treats and good eats that magically appear out of nowhere and all of the gifts that are given – handpicked for that special someone.

But for many people, the holidays are an enormous source of stress – worries about getting the perfect gift, to keeping the budget in check to planning and hosting a great party. For others, the holidays are also difficult, brining on feelings of sadness, isolation, loneliness and depression.

It takes patience and a good amount of self-awareness to get through the busy holiday season. Here are some tips to help you manage all of the stress that the holidays bring each December:

Your Budget:
• Be realistic about how much you can afford to spend
• Create a budget and write it down
• Check it often throughout the holidays to keep on track
• Make a plan that includes not only gifts for friends and family, but includes supplies for Christmas dinners, treats, transportation to get home to family, Santa Claus photos, that funny set of reindeer antlers for your dog…include everything!
• Be honest with friends and family if you are on a tight budget and work out a solution that will still allow you to spread good Christmas cheer!

Gift Giving:

• Shop early for good selection
• Make a list before you shop – there’s nothing worse than wandering aimlessly around the mall for hours hoping that the perfect gift will jump out at you and shout “Pick Me! I’m Perfect!”
• Try doing a Secret Santa or another gift exchange to save time, money and to cut down on worrying about finding the perfect gift for every person
• Don’t forget about online shopping – many stores have put most of their selection online and there are often great deals and specials not in stores
• Ask people what they would like for Christmas – if you get more than one idea, then it will still be a surprise for them!
• Try to give homemade gifts or small tokens rather than expensive and elaborate gifts
• Give the gift of time together – go to a movie, the zoo, spend the day in the mountains

Christmas Parties:
• You do not have to cook everything from scratch – sometimes premade food, appetizers and desserts are just as delicious as homemade!
• Have a potluck, rather than relying on one person to cook and prepare an entire meal
• If you really want to do it by yourself, cook and freeze food in advance so you just need to heat it up on the day of the party
• Ask for help – even if you think you might not need it
• Be reasonable when it comes to your schedule – you cannot always attend every single party
• Don’t feel bad if you have to turn down an invitation

Staying Healthy:
• Do not hold out on eating to “save room” for that big holiday meal – you’re far more likely to binge on snacks and treats before dinner if you’re starving
• Stick to your healthy habits and watch for over-indulging on snacks and treats, as well as alcohol
• Make sure to get lots of sleep and stick to your routine as much as possible
• Try to incorporate physical activity in to each day

Dealing with Stress over the Holidays:
If you find you are having trouble managing the stress that comes with the holidays, do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help – whether it is from your family or friends, or from a professional. Make sure to set aside time for yourself during the holidays – the holidays become much less enjoyable if you turn into the Grinch or Scrooge. Take time out to go for a walk, looking at all of the Christmas light displays in your neighborhood, decorate Christmas cookies, go ice skating, get a massage – any number of things that will make you feel good, force you to slow down and distract yourself from any remaining chores or shopping lists that are demanding your attention.

Many people are living far away from close family and friends and may not always be able to get back home for the holidays, which can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. If you are feeling this way, try to distract yourself by doing something positive and getting out of the house. At Christmastime, many agencies and charities are in need of extra helping hands and volunteering is a good way to feel great in a hurry, give back to your community and meet new people.

It is certainly not uncommon to feel stressed out, anxious, lonely or depressed during the holiday season – what matters most is that you are honest with yourself (and with others who care about you) about how you are feeling. If you are struggling, don’t suffer in silence – speak up and get help. Everyone feels stressed to some degree during the Christmas season, and you should not have to deal with this stress on your own.

Here are some great resources within Calgary you can contact if you are not able to deal with the holiday stress:

The Distress Centre – Crisis Line: 403-266-HELP (4357)

Calgary Counselling Centre: 403-691-5991

HealthLink Alberta: 1-866-408-5465