During the holiday season, everyone is busy. There is so much to do. Everyone seems to be rushing, worrying, preparing, planning, scheduling, and navigating last-minute tasks and responsibilities. Some may feel overwhelmed, exhausted, guilty, angry, or even tearful. For those who have lost a loved one recently – or anytime in the past –, this time of year can be especially challenging. However, you must take care of yourself. Otherwise, you will become worn out, and your resilience will weaken. Symptoms of depression and anxiety (which no one can actually escape in this lifetime) can become exacerbated by additional stress. Symptoms that are inflamed by stress are difficult to endure, especially with the added pressure of the holidays.

Below are some of my top recommendations that will help you stay more balanced and destressed during your holidays:

Let things be Perfectly Imperfect
Often we get tied up in trying to aim for the perfect holiday. So many times we focus on the details trying to make our homes, gifts, food, and everything else appear picture-perfect. Maybe we are spending our energy trying to recreate perfect memories from years past and lose sight of what is happening right now.

Make Time for Yourself
Decide what it is you want to do for yourself. For example, schedule a spa day, or a regular weekly or monthly massage. Spend time with friends, if you find that enjoyable and relaxing.

Say NO
Don’t feel obligated to say yes to every party invite, every dinner, every holiday activity you’re invited to. If you don’t feel up to going, politely say, “no.” Don’t delay your answer, do so ASAP. Thank the person for including you. If you have another commitment, mention it first and then politely refuse.

Eat Healthy meals
The holidays are known for all the delicious decadent foods, but they can also make you sluggish, bloated, and tired. Try to find balance by eating healthier meals whenever you can and saving the high-calorie foods for special occasions.

The ability to relax is important in effectively managing stress and anxiety. When we feel stressed, our bodies react with what is called the “fight or flight” response. Our muscles become tense, our heart and respiration rates increase, and other physiological systems become taxed.\

Make lists
Laying in bed at night thinking about all the things you need to do, the gifts to buy, the cards to send? Write it down.

Friends and Family Support
Support from friends and family can help reduce the impact of stress. Confide with close friends and family, share what is bothering you, and spend time together.

Avoid People who Stress you out
It is important not to continuously expose yourself to situations or people that cause you stress.

Have you ever noticed that dogs stretch when they wake up and before they go to bed? Taking a few minutes to stretch in the morning and before you go to bed can help you relax and keep you limber. Find a short bedtime yoga routine that works for you or light stretches you can do before you hop out of bed.

Deep breathing is essential daily. When we feel stressed, it is common for our rate of breathing to increase. We also tend to breathe in a shallow manner, more highly in our chest

Keep holiday expectations realistic
We set our expectations and we can choose to set them idealistically high, unintelligibly low, or somewhere in the middle. In certain circumstances, having no expectations can be exciting, because it means you have no idea of what’s coming next.

Don’t rely on alcohol and drugs
Overindulging may seem like a good short-term fix for relieving holiday stress and anxiety, but in the end, they make the situation worse. Instead of turning to substances as a stress reliever, try exercise, mindfulness activities such as meditation, or listening to uplifting music.

Focus on the Big Picture/Put things into Perspective
Ask yourself if it is worth stressing out about the situation and in the long run how important is it to focus on this particular stressor.

Practice self-compassion
Self-Compassion can be learned. Practicing self-compassion utilizes the moments that surround us rather than simply just tolerating those moments. But self-compassion starts with us first. Go into this holiday season trying to find out more about yourself.

“Change can be hard. It requires no extra effort to settle for the same old thing. Auto-pilot keeps us locked into past patterns. But transforming your life? That requires courage, commitment, and effort. It’s tempting to stay camped in the zone of That’s-Just-How-It-Is. But to get to the really good stuff in life, you have to be willing to become an explorer and adventurer.”
– John Mark Green