A mother and daughter are hanging ornaments on a tree
Up to 25 percent of people experience some sort of holiday anxiety or depression. Reducing stress over Christmas requires some planning ahead, staying flexible, depending on your loved ones, and more.

Prioritize Everything

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How to Keep Calm, Cool and Collected Throughout the Holiday Season

Up to 25 percent of people experience some sort of holiday anxiety or depression, so if you’re dreading the approaching festivities, you’re certainly not alone. However, there’s no reason that a quarter of the population should be so uneasy, considering how many stress-relieving tools are at your fingertips.

It can take some practice, but learning to plan ahead, adjust your obligations, and be more compassionate toward yourself can go far to making this holiday one to remember (for all the right reasons). Start with these 10 tips for managing stress over Christmas, through the busy stretch ahead and into the New Year.

Prioritize Everything

It may sound vague, and perhaps it’s easier said than done, but simplifying your list of tasks and obligations should be at the top of your list.

It helps to ask yourself whether or not your household/job/relationships/world will collapse if this one thing doesn’t get taken care of. No? Well then, bump it to the bottom of the list.
Prioritizing is an art, but you can learn it quickly when you’re forced to (and the holidays are the perfect push).

Stay Flexible

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Stay Flexible

Whether it’s dinner, parties, gift-giving, or some other wonderful holiday spectacle, surprises happen — especially when a lot of people are involved. If you’re going to make it through with your sanity and grace in place, you’ll need to learn to bend here and there.

Remind yourself the holidays aren’t about perfection, but about fun, laughter and compassion. Since food plays such a pivotal role at this time of year, keep a bit extra in the freezer and a couple of takeout menus on hand to get you through the rough patches.

Lean on Loved Ones

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Lean on Loved Ones

Plenty of people will be feeling the festive spirit, and those close to you will be happy to channel that help and positivity wherever you might need it to go. Don’t hesitate out of pride or a sense of responsibility, because holiday to-do lists are long, and often impossible to conquer on your own.

Instead, learn to delegate, spread tasks around, and take up the first offer of help. In any case, it’s more fun to put together a feast with a bunch of helping hands, exchange smiles with neighbors, and celebrate a holiday success with your closest circle of friends.

Journal Often

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Journal Often

It’s no secret that keeping a journal can relieve pent-up stress, aggression and sadness. The simple act of writing down your thoughts and reactions is incredibly cathartic, and can serve as a very helpful record when trouble arises in the future.

Use your journal in any way you like, but use it often: studies have found that making a habit out of journaling brings the greatest benefit, no matter what your ultimate goal.

Go Easy on Yourself

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Go Easy on Yourself

Nobody can do it all, and that’s perfectly alright. There might be some disappointments over the holiday season, but keep in mind a lot of factors go into any situation, and you never deserve to shoulder all the blame.

If a gathering doesn’t go as planned, so be it. There will be others. The happiest people are those that can let things go, leave failures in the past, and be kind to themselves. Always treat yourself as you would treat the people closest to your heart, and you’ll stay confident and caring enough to tackle the next challenge that comes your way with grace and dignity.

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Treat Your Body Well

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Treat Your Body Well

Holidays are a time to indulge, there’s no doubt about that. But somewhere between that third helping of stuffing and fourth glass of wine, you might notice your patience begins to wane, your anxieties begin to creep up, and your resilience begins to falter.

Too much drinking sets the stage for moodiness and depression, while overeating leads right to fatigue and general weariness. Save yourself the physical discomfort and emotional struggle by keeping your treats within reason. Take comfort in conversation and warm atmosphere rather than the buffet table.

Lower Expectations

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Lower Expectations

It’s good to be optimistic, but if your relatives have had problems in the past, the perfect family gathering may not be in the cards this year. Family tensions can rise quickly, and an emotional blow-up can ruin a night, but not if you’re prepared for it.

Consider how you’ll deal with feelings of anxiety or depression if the atmosphere or conversation takes a turn for the worse, and keep that in the front of your mind during the gathering. You can be the one to steer the conversation in another direction when things get rough, put aside personal contentions, and keep the focus on happier things.

Exercise Often

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Exercise Often

There’s a difference between manically running around from shop to shop and getting in a solid, heart-pumping workout: one will breed stress, and the other will relieve it.

Exercise should always be a priority, but schedules tend to shift and shuffle when the holidays arrive. It can be difficult to stay on track, but do your best to make time for your body and mind each and every day. A 30-minute workout is all you need to keep your mind refreshed and your body strong.

Stick to a Budget

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Stick to a Budget

You don’t need financial concerns on top of all your other concerns, so figure out a reasonable budget early on and stick to it no matter what. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of dishing out a bit more here and there, but that will add up quickly.

If you’re on a tight budget, keep gifts to a minimum, suggest potluck parties, and don’t feel too bad about bowing out of expensive restaurant gatherings. And whatever you have earmarked for the holidays, don’t rely on plastic — the more often you can use cash for your purchases, the easier it will be to keep tabs on how much you’re spending.

Reach out to Others

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Reach out to Others

One of the best ways to feel good is to give back, so make time for some charitable gestures. A night helping out in a food bank or shelter or volunteering some time at a local event can make a world of difference for people that need a helping hand.

Getting involved with your community will forge new connections, lift your spirits and inspire you. If you’re not sure where to offer your help, check with a local community center, church or volunteer organization.

Sometimes situations are just too much to bear, no matter how you adjust your perspective. Listen to your body and know when to take a breather. A short break from the frenzy can be enough to recharge and regroup, especially if you use the time to practice meditative exercises, positive visualization, or any personal mantras that keep you upbeat and in control.

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