Reducing stress during the holidays

family and friends eating dinnerThe holidays can be full of friends, families and festivities.

They can also bring stress.

We talked previously about the importance of putting aside a desire for perfection.  But there’s another potential pitfall to avoid: saying yes to so many requests that you find yourself overextended.

…A friend invites you to an annual holiday brunch.

…The family wants to go to the annual holiday movie outing.

…Work has its standard office party. Colleagues are hoping to go out for nibbles and drinks separately as well.

…Your aunt is hoping you can join her for a holiday fundraiser for one of her favorite charities.

They all sound great.

And even if they don’t sound great, you often don’t want to disappoint others, so you end up saying yes.  The next thing you know, your calendar is way too full; your errand list is way too long and your bank account way too thin.

When it comes to scaling back, the first person you have to convince is yourself. It’s OK to slow things down. And if you won’t do it for yourself, think of it this way: Showing up a frazzled, less attentive, less-engaged version of yourself could shortchange others around you.

You can say “no” while still sounding open and friendly. Here are some suggestions:

  • I would love to get together, but my calendar is really full with the holidays approaching. Can we schedule a time when things slow down so we don’t have to rush and I can give you my undivided attention?”
  • “I’m looking forward to seeing you, but a formal dinner is really beyond my capacity right now. Any chance you have time to grab a cup of coffee in the coming week or so?”
  • “Thank you for the invitation to join you at the charity event. It sounds like a great cause, but I’ve already agreed to help meet several other needs this season. Thanks for sharing it with me, though. It’s nice to know about options for future years.”

You don’t have to give a reason, either. Try a simple: “Thank you for thinking of me, and I’m sure I’d enjoy it, but I have a prior commitment and I won’t be able to attend.”

While it’s important to maintain balance, it’s also important to recognize if you’re pulling back from social engagements because of depression or other behavioral health issues. Isolating at holiday time has the potential to increase symptoms like appetite, sleep and mood disturbance.

Holidays can also bring memories of times past that can make us sad if we have lost loved ones or have loved ones who are ill. It’s important to honor the authenticity of your feelings and seek help when you need it.

Try to hold close the spirit of the holidays. The winter holidays are all about peace and love. Allowing others to help can bring joy and purpose to them just as you felt joy to all the “Yesses” you were able to say this year.

Try to savor the positives in your life and create new holiday memories that keep you healthy and happy. Sit back, enjoy some egg nog with a good holiday movie and honor yourself for finding balance in an ever changing world. You deserve it. Happy Holidays to All!

Terri Waldman MSW was the director of the TMC Geropsychiatric Center at Handmaker and now is the administrator at Copper Canyon Alzheimer’s Special Care Center

Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461