Avoid Holiday Stress by Setting Realistic Expectations, Setting Aside Differences

Rochester, Minnesota - For many, the holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year. Unfortunately, unwanted stress and depression can derail holiday cheer when trying to juggle all of the parties, family gatherings, shopping, baking, cooking and more.

"The holiday season should be a time of joy and celebrations with family, friends and loved ones," says Amit Sood, M.D., a Mayo Clinic physician and stress management expert. "But sometimes we lose sight of that and become overwhelmed."

Dr. Sood says with some practical tips, it is possible to minimize stress that can accompany the holidays:

    • Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well.
    • Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances to enjoy the holiday cheer.
    • Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity.
    • Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
    • Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you is facing adversity or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.
    • Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship.
    • Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Dr. Sood is the author of The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living.

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