Reducing stress during the holidays

I am a firm believer in making life simpler.  Never is this harder to do than during the holiday season.  We get so wrapped up in all the action, excitement and hype.  After Halloween the stores have holiday decorations up.  Really?  Two months of being barraged?  Every holiday season seems to come sooner and go by faster.  While there are many stress management techniques, the best way to lower your stress is to change your view of the holidays.  What are your expectations for the holidays and specific celebrations?  Can you scale it down?  Who or what will make it more difficult?  Let’s think about it.

Create new expectations.  Think of one or two things you want the holidays to represent.  Now ask yourself some questions and see if the answers align with what you want the holidays to represent.  Are you hosting all celebrations?  Do you make cookies for everyone you know?  Do you buy gifts for every friend and their kids?  Do you have issues with a particular friend or family member every holiday season?  If what you have done in the past and expect to do this year don’t align with what you want the holidays to represent then things need to change and you have the power to change them.

How will you can scale it down?  What stresses you the most?  How can you make the changes you need in order to enjoy the holidays without the stress?  What traditions do you want to start or continue for your children?  What would never be missed?  Try and scale back everything you can, even something as small as reducing your holiday card mailing list.  Maybe you host less occasions, if you still host serve less food,  or ask people to bring dishes or dessert.  Also you can suggest secret Santas where appropriate.  And if you stress over relationships then focus on one positive thing or conversation you want to have with this person.

Who or what will make these changes difficult to implement? Think about what barriers you will encounter should you decide to change something or scale down?  How can you word your desires to those who really want things the way they have always been?  When talking to others about change be sure you tell them it is about you.  “The way we have been doing things stresses me”, “I need to do this for me”, “please help me do this”.  Create your own mantra and use it everyday when things get out of control.  For example; less is more, I can create calm in my life, this is my choice, I am in control of my life, etc.

Make a plan now!  Discuss it with your spouse or significant other.  Stick to it.  Check in with yourself daily.  If your stress level, on a scale of 0-10 (1-never, 5-somewhat, 10-often/very much) is an 8, 9 or 10, use that mantra!  Take care of yourself!!!!!!  Walk, stretch in your living room, meditate for 5 minutes a day or more to decrease stress.  If you continue to feel overwhelmed and cannot shake the anxiety or depression seek help from a professional.

Lenore Pranzo, MA, LMFT is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Redding, CT with a private practice in her home and is a mother of 5 year old twin boys. She works with couples, teens, groups and individuals on issues including substance abuse, fertility, anxiety, depression, marital strain, and stress management.