Dealing with holiday stress

December 22, 2009 3:19:15 PM PST
According to the song lyrics, it's the most wonderful time of the year. But for many, it's also the most stressful time of the year. From shopping to traffic to cooking, how should people cope?

A lot of people take stress during the holidays as much in stride as they do gift wrapping. But it's a good time to remember that stress can add to our exhaustion and disturb our emotional well being. So keeping it in check can make for a more peaceful, happier holiday.

Add up the pressure of getting that right gift with the frustrations of travel or visitors, plus the economic pressures, then stir in a large dose of high expectations. It can all be too much. And that means stress.

"Too much spending, too much shopping, too much partying, too much eating and drinking, too much pressure," said Dr. Michael McGee, a psychiatrist with the Cleveland Clinic.

It's not always possible to remove every stressful element in your holiday season, but realizing that something is too much is the crucial step in dealing with stress. Once you realize that it's just too much, you can stop and take time out. But that may require a change in how you see things.

"You don't have to get an A+ on shopping," Dr. McGee said. "You don't have to get an A+ on presents. You don't have to get an A+ on decorating your house. You don't have to get an A+ on cleaning your house. You don't have to get an A+ on meals."

Dr. McGee says lowering expections may be necessary for your well being. Think also about adding in the things that are missing, like adding in time alone or with that one loved one, geting some exercise, saying no when necessary, and, more importantly, asking for help when its needed.

"Give yourself a Christmas present and ease up," Dr. McGee said. "A holiday present for you."

It's important to realize that stress can and should be handled. The most important time is now and how it's lived. And this time of peace and celebration is a time to celebrate the good things you can do.