Getting a handle on holiday stress

When stress is at its peak, it's hard to stop and regroup. With some practical tips, you can minimize the stress that can sometimes accompany the holidays.

Plan ahead — Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That'll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.

Acknowledge your feelings — If someone close to you has recently passed or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's OK to take time to cry or express your feelings.

Reach out — If  you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.

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. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can't come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.

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 until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress, too.

Stick to a budget — Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Try these alternatives: Donate to a charity in someone's name, give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.

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. If it's not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.

Don't abandon healthy habits — Try not to let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.

Take a breather and remember the true meaning — Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, and remember the true reason for the season. 

Seek professional help if you need it — Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, and unable to sleep. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. * If you are on a Medical Trust health plan try your Employee Assistance Program (EAP). It’s there to help you for these and other matters. Call toll-free: (866) 395-7794, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week OR log on to and enter your Employer ID: episcopal*


Peter K Video Archives — Stress: 5 Steps to Feel Better — Feeling stressed this holiday season? Peter K suggests 5 steps that may help you feel better.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be professional medical advice or treatment. Always seek the advice of a health care professional with any questions about personal health care status, and prior to making changes in approaches to diet and exercise. This material is for informational purposes only and is not a guarantee of coverage under any Episcopal Church Medical Trust (“ECMT”) health plan. To determine what services are covered under an ECMT health plan, the corresponding Plan Handbook should be reviewed carefully. In the event of a conflict between this information contained in this email and the official Plan documents (schedule of benefits, Summary Plan Description, booklet, booklet-certificate), the official Plan documents will govern. Unless otherwise noted, websites referenced herein that are outside the domain are not associated with the ECMT and its affiliates (collectively, the “Church Pension Group”) and the Church Pension Group is not responsible for the content of any such website. All quotations are used with permission.

Photos: Stephen Kelly Photography
Used under a Creative Commons License