Follow these strategies to prevent holiday stress, illness

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Melissa Rountree
  • 42nd Medical Group
A holiday stress prevention strategy is key to avoiding the pitfalls of holiday stress. This may be especially true if the holiday season has taken an emotional toll in previous years.

Some practical tips can help minimize negative stress and enhance the positive stressors often associated with the holiday season. Strategies to head off holiday stress and stress related illnesses:
  • Be realistic and acknowledge your feelings and how you typically cope with stressful events. If you're already under a lot of stress, recognize that a different course of action and support will be needed to manage the potential for higher levels of stress during the holiday season. Avoiding the holiday season altogether is not a viable choice option. Therefore, you should plan ahead to participate within your own limits. Don't overstress your available resources. Your health and safety are paramount.
  • Seek support. If you feel isolated or down, seek out family members, friends or services from the community, such as religious or social services. Consider volunteering. Getting involved and helping others can lift your spirits and broaden your friendships. Also, enlist support for organizing holiday gatherings, as well as meal preparation and clean up. You don't have to go it alone.
  • Set differences aside. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all your expectations. Practice forgiveness. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. With stress and activity levels high, the holidays might not be conducive to making quality time for relationships.
  • Stick to a budget. Before you go shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend on gifts and other items. Then be sure to stick to your budget. If you don't, you could feel anxious and tense for months afterward as you struggle to pay the bills. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Donate to a charity in someone's name, give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.
  • Learn to say no. Believe it or not, people will understand if you can't do certain activities. If you say yes only to what you really want to do, you'll avoid feeling resentful, bitter and overwhelmed. If it's really 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.
  • Once again, be realistic. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Hold on to those you can continue and those you value. Accept the fact that you may have to let go of some of the traditions were fitting and suited for that time and place. For example, if your adult children and grandchildren can't all gather at your house as usual, find new ways to celebrate together from afar, such as sharing pictures, e-mails or videotapes.
  • Focus on "the reason for the season." Don't forget to be a good Wingman; use your Wingman/Buddy when needed. Don't drink and drive. Be realistic and be safe. 
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to contact the 42nd Medical Group's Mental Health Clinic for more information at 953-5430.