How To Handle The Holiday Blues And Keep Your Sanity During The Season

holidayAre those jingling bells giving you a nagging headache? If so, you’re not alone. Too much holiday stress can take the fun out of the season. Many of us feel a lot of pressure this time of year with parties to attend, meals to cook, presents to wrap, in-laws on their way, and a house to clean. So how can you take time to enjoy the holidays?

Consider readjusting the expectations that you place on yourself. “There are only so many hours in the day. If the house isn’t decorated or you need to skip a holiday event, it's okay,” says Nancy Georgekutty, MD, an independently practicing family medicine physician on the medical staff at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center. “Keep your focus on family and the friends you enjoy being with. Reach out to old acquaintances and reconnect. Above all, have fun and take care of yourself,” she says. “The holiday season is a festive time, but it’s not enjoyable if you are completely exhausted and your stomach is in knots.”

You can help to minimize stress by controlling your time. “Don’t think you need to attend every party. When hosting guests, consider catering and takeout to save time on cooking, and try not to be a perfectionist,” Dr. Georgekutty says.

Family is also a common stressor. “Don’t sweat the relatives,” she advises. “You don’t get to choose your family. If a relative gets under your skin, just be polite and try to let it roll off your back.” Dr. Georgekutty encourages us to do what we want this time of year. “Plan ahead with a few special activities with those whose company you enjoy.”

When planning your gift-giving, set a budget and avoid buying gifts you can’t afford — this will stress you out long after the holidays are over. “Consider making gifts that are less expensive but more meaningful,” she says.

In the midst of holiday preparations and activities, Dr. Georgekutty reminds us to take care of ourselves by getting plenty of rest, eating healthy, and exercising.

“If you’re feeling too stressed, take a break,” she says. “Napping, walking the dog, or taking time to view holiday lights can help you feel better.”

While it’s tempting, avoid overindulging in food and alcohol but do allow yourself to enjoy some of your favorite treats in moderation. “Trying to diet during the holidays can make you feel deprived and may cause you to overeat,” she explains.

“When faced with an array of foods, choose wisely. Decide which foods you really want to eat and which ones you can do without. Cakes, pies, and all the other goodies can be part of a healthy eating plan as long as you practice portion control,” Dr. Georgekutty says. “And keep in mind that ‘stressed’ is just ‘desserts’ spelled backwards,” she quips.

When stress feels overwhelming, instead of binging on cookies, try turning your focus outward. “Do something nice for someone else. Get out of the house and walk with family and friends, go to the park, or take your family ice-skating or caroling. Contact someone who is alone or someone with whom you have lost touch. These simple things can help you feel better,” Dr. Georgekutty suggests.

This holiday season, think positively, exercise patience, and commit to staying within the realistic goals you’ve set. The peace of mind you get will go a long way toward keeping joy, laughter, and cheer in the holidays.

By Angel Biasatti
Director Public and Community Relations
Methodist Mansfield Medical Center