Cooling Stress Tips: Managing Stress During The Holidays

By Judi Light Hopson Tribune News Service

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Judi Light Hopson, author of the stress management book, "Cooling Stress Tips", shares some of her best suggestions for keeping your cool during the holiday season.

Tribune News Service

Do your stress issues increase this time of year?

Maybe shopping is not that simple for you because your finances are already shaky. Or, maybe having relatives over means dealing with oddball people.

Few of us live the lives portrayed by a Norman Rockwell painting.

"I dread December because I'm already stressed out," says a friend of ours we'll call Alana. "Gathering at my aunt's house during the holidays means I must deal with my ex-husband. He comes to see our teenage children, so it works best to invite him to a group gathering."

Alana explains that her ex-husband was injured in a car wreck last year. "I am forced to smile, deal with my ex with compassion, and ultimately, avoid going nuts. It's difficult."

Having a sense of humor helps, of course. But, dealing with stress this time of year requires making up our minds ahead of time that we'll set boundaries.

These tips can help:

-First of all, take good care of yourself. Don't skip getting enough sleep or going to the gym, if at all possible. It's easier to let stressful stuff slide if you know you're looking out for Number One.

-Prioritize your responsibilities. Get a notebook and start writing down everything you need to accomplish. Plan your shopping trips in detail, for example. Think and act in orderly ways to save time and money.

-Forget cleaning your house perfectly. Clean the kitchen, living areas, and the main bathroom extremely well. Don't worry as much about bedrooms and play areas.

-Don't give in to negative emotions. Managing your routine and relatives anything close to "okay" is really fine. Don't dwell on your relatives who aren't perfect and don't think negative thoughts about your past. Strive to stay upbeat, no matter what.

-Use music to smooth out your stress. Do play your favorite tunes in the car, rather than fantasize about how to get revenge on your difficult co-workers. "I try to set a shopping budget and get that ironed out first," says a friend of ours we'll call Jackie. "Getting my gifts in order without breaking the bank is huge for me. I've had years when I went so far over budget, I could not afford any type of vacation the following year."

It helps to count your blessings in managing stress, too. Gratitude puts the brakes on your worst emotions.

Even if you have a major illness or job loss in the family, deal with everything by being grateful for what's going right.

"I really believe we come up with creative solutions when we stay positive," says a minister's wife we'll call Joanna. "I get a lot of phone calls from our church members in crisis this time of year. I give them all the encouragement I can. But, I don't try to actually solve their problems."

Joanna says she's learned that people want empowerment, not sympathy. "They like feeling they can manage their own issues," she emphasizes.

"I encourage them to try some simple steps to fix a problem, any problem.

For one thing, I might ask them to talk to their banker if they are behind in their mortgage payments. Options do exist. I explain to them that doing nothing will escalate the stress. I advise them to ask a relative or friend for help, too."

If we encourage ourselves to think, plan, act and stay calm, the holidays will go better. However, we must be very proactive. ___ (Judi Light Hopson is author of the stress management book, "Cooling Stress Tips.") ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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