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Tips for surviving the holidays

“I’m a wreck! I’ve got to cook and clean and decorate for seven houseguests, my mother’s going to criticize me, the malls are crowded and how will I pay for it all?”

The holidays aren’t always “the Season to be Jolly.” We can feel overwhelmed with obligations. Family get-togethers can be fraught with conflicts. Shopping can be stressful. Traveling can be challenging. If you’re not sharing the season with loved ones, you may feel lonely and sad.

The stresses of the holiday can trigger depression and anxiety. But planning, taking care of yourself and setting realistic goals can help you cope and enjoy the season.

Keep your work load manageable

  • Set realistic goals for yourself. Bake three kinds of cookies, not six.
  • Keep a to-do list and gift lists.
  • Ask for help when you need it.

Take care of yourself

  • Schedule time out for yourself to do something relaxing and enjoyable. Have coffee with a friend, take a long walk, curl up with a good book.
  • Have a healthy snack before parties and stand next to the vegetable platter instead of the fudge.
  • Get plenty of sleep and exercise.

Make traveling easier

  • If you’re anxious about a road trip, plan your route in advance and take maps. If you practice safe driving habits, the chance of an accident is very small. By driving at night, you can avoid traffic, but be sure you are rested. Check for road conditions and closures.
  • Traveling by air? Make sure you have current information about baggage and other regulations.
  • Schedule your flight for off-peak times to avoid crowds. Bring along music or an audio book.

Try to get along with Dad and Aunt Mary

  • Try to set aside resentments and accept troublesome relatives. Everyone’s feeling the holiday stress. Choose another time to discuss conflicts.
  • If conversation begins to get heated, let them know that you heard what they said and that their feelings matter, and try not to judge. Change the subject when necessary.

Enjoy holiday parties
Does thinking about talking to people and being surrounded by a crowd make you anxious?

  • Take some time to relax before the event.
  • Arrive a little later and leave early if you need to.
  • Keep your alcohol to a minimum; it can increase anxiety.
  • Try to start a conversation with just two people. Make small talk and ask casual questions that will engage them in the conversation.
  • Exit by saying, “I enjoyed talking with you. I’m going to make the rounds now.”

Watch your spending

  • Look for free holiday activities in your community. Check the papers or online.
  • Make paper snowflakes or decorate cookies with your children.
  • A personal, well-chosen gift will show you care more than the most expensive one.
  • Make a budget and stick to it. Don’t let those colorful ads tempt you to overspend.
  • Suggest family members draw names instead of buying gifts for everyone.

Enjoy the holiday, even if you’re by yourself
Many people find themselves without family for the holidays.

  • Talk with friends and coworkers to see if others who don’t have plans would like to join you. Host a potluck or invite guests to join in making a meal.
  • Volunteer your time for those who could use your help. It’s a good way to lift your spirits and meet people too.
  • It’s normal to feel sadness. Talk it over with someone.
  • Schedule time with people you enjoy. Make some new friends or reconnect with those you’ve been out of touch with.

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