How to Cope with Holiday Stress

Health, Home & Family
on December 5, 2011

It's easy to get overwhelmed during the holidays. Too-long to-do lists, crowded stores, overspending, the pressures of travel and family gatherings, and supervising children who are out of school can leave you stressed and miserable.

"In addition, recapturing the magic of Christmas and Hanukkah past and facing our many shortcomings on New Year's [Day] can be a very heavy psychological burden," says Ronald Nathan, a psychologist in Albany, N.Y.

For a holiday season that's less hectic and more joyful, find healthy ways to manage stress. Nathan, who created the self-help CD Relieving Your Holiday Stress and Achieving Your New Year's Resolutions, suggests these tips:

Breathe. Practicing quick relaxation techniques is one of the best ways to calm stress. One of Nathan's favorites: Imagine you're holding a cup of your favorite hot beverage. Breathe in its aroma, inhaling slowly and deeply into the stomach area. Exhale as if you're blowing across the surface of the beverage, squeezing a little more air out than you normally would. Repeat several times.

Plan. "If anything, underestimate how much you can do and then plan to do the things that truly bring you joy," Nathan says. Postpone whatever can wait until after the holidays. "Be realistic about what you can do and be compassionate with yourself," he says.

Don't overspend. When it comes to giving gifts, avoid making comparisons; focus on what you believe is important. Instead of the time and expense of hosting an elaborate party, pursue inexpensive activities, such as caroling, reading holiday stories, or volunteering at shelters and hospitals.