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Holiday Stress

It’s that most wonderful time of the year, filled with holiday parties, shopping, and baking, all the while juggling work and family life.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by it all, you may be experiencing stress. Stress is the body’s response to all the demands made upon it and is unique to each individual.

Everyone experiences stress from time to time, but if your feelings are putting a damper on your holiday spirit, it may be a good idea to think of ways to more effectively manage your stress. Dr. Teresa Gevedan from the University of Kentucky Department of Psychiatry says there are several reasons why the holidays produce stress in some people:

  • Expectations of a perfect hallmark holiday
  • Extra activities added to your already busy calendar
  • Everybody else’s stress, which can increase your own
  • Time constraints
  • Financial constraints
  • Feeling like you have to do it all
  • Relationships: if stress already exists in a relationship, it may become amplified during the holidays
  • Loss and grief: it’s important to acknowledge and respect your sadness

You may not be able to control all the demands life places on you at holiday time, but here are some helpful ways to manage stress in your life.

Reasonable expectations: Lose the notion that the holidays are going to be perfect. In fact, it’s some of those things that aren’t exactly perfect that make the holidays memorable. When you get too focused on perfection, you put a lot of unnecessary pressure on yourself.

Plan early: Plan early and budget your time, money, and interests. Find the traditions and activities that you really want to focus on that you and your family enjoy, and spend your time with those. Realize that as families grow and change, traditions will need to grow and change. Traditions can be very simple—they don’t have to be elaborate or expensive.

Learn to say no: You can’t do it all and you can’t do it all at once. If you try, you’re going to feel overwhelmed and resentful. It’s okay to say no.

Delegate responsibilities: Who says you have to do everything on your own? Family members who are staying with you or kids who are home for the holidays may really enjoy helping, and feel more a part of things when you allow them to help you. Do some things with them instead of for them.

Budget: Develop a holiday budget and stick to it. It’s very tempting during the holidays to want to buy more, or make up for whatever we feel is lacking by buying a more expensive gift, which ends up creating more financial strain.

Relax: Take time out each day for yourself for relaxation. You may not get a “silent night” every night, but it’s important to have some time to retreat and regroup.

Maintain routines: Maintain your sleeping and eating habits as closely as possible. Getting out of your regular routine is a big stressor during the holidays. If you are tired or hungry, you’re not going to function well, which increases stress. Be reasonable about dieting and drinking during the holidays.

For more information on the treatment of stress, call the University of Kentucky Department of Psychiatry at (859) 323-6032.


On your body
Chest pain
Pounding heart
High blood pressure
Shortness of breath
Muscle aches, such as back/neck pain
Clenched jaws
Grinding teeth
Tight, dry throat
Constipation or diarrhea
Stomach cramping/bloating
Increased perspiration, often causing cold, sweaty hands
Diminished sex drive
Skin problems, such as hives

On your thoughts and feelings
Mood swings
Feeling of insecurity
Lack of concentration
Tendency to see only the negative aspects of people and situations

On your behavior
Overeating or loss of appetite
Decreased anger control, marked by sudden outbursts with little provocation
Increased use of alcohol and drugs
Increased smoking
Withdrawal or isolation
Crying spells
Changes in close relationships
Job dissatisfaction
Decreased productivity

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