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Keep Holiday Stress At Bay

Hard to believe, but it’s that time of year again for holiday stress to swoop into our lives.

The kids have already cruised the neighborhood in their adorable costumes in search of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (since when did every candy become miniature?). Starbucks just released this year’s holiday cup. And you’ll hear Jingle Bells everywhere before you know it.

This time of year raises conflicting emotions for many. Some are excited to eat lots of turkey and get their fill of eggnog. Some may be missing a loved one due to distance or death. Many dread the thought of another season of stress that inevitably arises when families get together.

Whatever your perspective is on the upcoming holiday season, it’s good to have a plan so that you can slide into the new year unscathed and ready to take charge.

Here are four tips that can be helpful in preparing yourself to cope with holiday stress.

Manage Expectations

A big part of holiday stress is the feeling that everything needs to be perfect. Sometimes this ideal is placed on us by our family, but many times it comes from inside ourselves.

When was the last time you remember an event going exactly as planned? If we succumb to “all or nothing” thinking, that Thanksgiving is either perfect or an epic failure, we put unnecessary pressure on ourselves to try and make it perfect.

The gravy may be too salty or Uncle Bob may go on a rant about politics, but chances are that some good things will happen as well!

Go into these big days ready to enjoy the little moments, and ready to chuckle when the inevitable disaster happens. Even spending two minutes before you fall asleep reflecting on one or two things you are grateful for can help shift your mindset in a more positive direction.

Create Boundaries

Do you ever find yourself slipping back into your childhood self when visiting your parents? It’s easy to fall into the pattern of doing everything you can to try and please the ones who raised you! Suddenly, quality family time turns into cleaning out the basement, running errands, and resentment.

While it’s wonderful to give to others, remember to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others.

It is OKAY to say “no” when you need a break.

Whether it is charities requesting money to meet their end of year goals, or friends who need you to attend their holiday party, it’s important to take a step back and realize when you are overextended.

Also keep in mind that it is okay to ask others for help! So many people tell me that they feel good when they are able to help others, but they themselves are uber resistant to asking for help when they need it! By not asking, you are actually denying someone else the opportunity to feel good by helping you!! Mind blown, I know.

Develop a Self-Care Routine

When you notice that you’re approaching your limits of patience, it’s time to kick your self-care plan into action! I’d actually argue it’s good to always have your self-care scheduled, but it often gets lost during busy periods.

This will be different for everyone. For some people it’s a weekly yoga class, for others it’s wine and a good movie, or perhaps a morning run. Whatever it is that helps you to re-center yourself and feel more energized, be ready to work it back into your schedule.

And if you just can’t find time to do your usual self-care activities, many people find it helpful to work in five deep breaths when they have a free minute (see my video for more details on this).

Social Connection

“How can you recommend being connected with others when I already have 10 holiday parties on my schedule?” To be honest, this introvert would be dreading that schedule!

The holidays often broaden our social schedule at the expense of deep connections. Many of us get stuck in the small talk rut as we make our way through the holiday social scene.

It’s important not to let your deep connections suffer as a result of the busy holiday period. Try to make time for coffee with your girlfriend. Or FaceTime with your best friend across the country.

Engaging deeply with those we love provides much more fulfillment than many superficial interactions.

And if you don’t have the chance to see your loved ones, consider spending time volunteering to serve others. I’ve felt a strong sense of connection to others when volunteering for a soup kitchen in the past. It just feels nice to know you are making a difference.

As always, if you feel you could benefit from a little extra support, get in touch to schedule a free consultation and we can discuss what would be most helpful for your specific situation. You may also call 727-498-1809 to schedule

Here’s to wishing you a happy, healthy, and relatively stress free holiday period!

Dr. Kevin Hyde

Dr. Kevin Hyde

Dr. Kevin Hyde is a clinical psychologist licensed to practice in the state of Florida. He resides in Pinellas County with his wife and two young daughters. In his spare time, Dr. Hyde enjoys relaxing at the beach with family, watching Nationals baseball, baking bread, and keeping up with current events. He founded Pinellas Anxiety Specialists with the intention of providing high quality anxiety therapy to reduce the stress and anxiety that so many cope with on a daily basis.