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The holidays can be fun, yet very stressful. For many, spending time with the family is a joyous occasion. However, for some it can be very stressful and conflicting.

There are many contributing factors to stress during the holidays. These include: financial stressors, choosing the right gift, familial stressors, increases in alcohol and drug use, being reminded of lost loved ones, overeating and weight gain, being single, overcrowded shopping spaces, and preparation of end of year taxes.

Holidays can be stressful due to these many contributing factors.

Financial Stressors
Money can be tight during the holidays. Parents buy their children gifts even when they cannot afford them so that their children don’t feel left out among friends. Then there’s buying gifts for co-workers, friends, and other family members. Some people even travel to be with family, which adds to the financial stress. As you can imagine, financial stressors can become overwhelming, especially when one does not have the means.

Tip #1: Create a budget ahead of time, and try to follow it!
Tip #2: Suggest to your co-workers to have a White Elephant gift exchange.
-Suggest items from home, so you don’t have to purchase anything (e.g. books, CDs, paintings, etc).
-Suggest a spending limit that is affordable.

Stress Behind Choosing A Gift
Some people worry that the person receiving their gift will not like it. Some may even fear being judged for their choice of gift.

Tip #1: If you are worried that they may not like the gift, get something returnable.
Tip #2: If you are worried about being judged, remember that a good friendship isn’t dependant upon gifts.

Stressful Times With The Family
Though it can be a great experience reconnecting with family members and close friends, sometimes we enter situations where we see people whom we prefer to avoid. The internal conflict we may experience as to how to handle the interaction may be very stressful.

Tip: Know what is helpful for you in those circumstances. For example, you can call the person you prefer to avoid and have a conversation prior to running into them at an event.

When holidays approach, we think of our loved ones that have passed and notice feelings of discomfort that they are no longer here.
Tip #1: Talk to someone you trust about your feelings.
Tip #2: Do some journal writing to process your feelings.

Alcohol and Drug Use
It is very common to drink during gatherings. When under stress, we tend to drink and use substances. There is a high correlation with drinking and aggressive behavior which can negatively impact your relationships resulting in further stress.

Tip: Limit your drinking during the holidays. You know your limit, so abide by it.

Holiday Meals and Overeating
Being invited to one holiday meal after another can contribute to weight gain resulting in more stress. And if it is not a holiday party, it can be eating unhealthy snacks at home for comfort instead of hunger.

Tip #1: Limiting your food intake per meal can decrease the likelihood of weight gain. Even avoiding the dessert may be helpful.
Tip #2: When at home, eat mindfully. Meaning, don’t eat with distractions such as television.

Single During the Holidays
When thinking about the holidays, we not only imagine going to gatherings with loved ones, but also with a significant other. As a single person, one may dwell on the thought of not having a date for the holidays, and anxious about how to respond when asked about their love life.

Tip #1: Have a prepared response that is respectful.
Tip #2: Remember that people are asking as a way of connecting and not as a means to judge.
Tip #3: The most important relationship is the one with yourself.

Crowded Shopping Areas
It can be overwhelming to be bumped into while walking and/or waiting in long lines.

Tip #1: Go shopping at a less busier time such as opening hours.
Tip #2: Do some deep breathing or distracting techniques (such as taking reading material with you) while waiting in line.

End of Year Tax Preparation
For business owners, preparing end of year taxes can be stressful.

Tip: Put aside an hour per weekday for data entry and organizing your tax preparation.

Author: Anita Avedian, MFT
Director of Anger Management 818

Making decisions are challenging. You don’t know whether the decision you make will result in a satisfactory outcome. Or maybe, you are concerned with regretting the decision you make today.

What are some obstacles in decision-making?
A. The grass is greener on the other side: This is an obstacle in the decision making process since you don’t want to result in feeling resentful. Unsure whether you have this viewpoint? If you find yourself frequently thinking that it would have been better to go with another option, then you are likely to have this viewpoint.

B. “You made your bed, now sleep in it.” Of course hearing such messages will impact your confidence of making the “right” or “best” decision. The underlying tone of this obstacle is feeling guilt. Maybe you won’t have the appropriate amount of emotional support from loved ones because they hold you responsible for your misery.

C. The unknown. Not knowing what to expect feeds into feeling anxious. For anxiety sufferers, you may feel a sense of relief once you make a decision. Unfortunately no matter which decision you choose, you may still find yourself worrying.

Some Helpful Strategies to Decision Making

The 4 steps to Decision Making. The 4 steps are used for more simple (non-complex) situations. It includes listing various options and evaluating them.

The 8 steps to Decision Making. The 8 steps are used for more complex situations. In addition to what the 4 steps includes, this strategy incorporates rating the importance of each option, determining the level of influence or control you may have of each disadvantage, along with sorting the level of importance.

Exploratory Questioning
This strategy helps with improving your confidence. It’s the preferred strategy for people who frequently doubt themselves. Some helpful questions include: (1) What would help you feel more confident about your decision? (2) What are your fears around making the decision?

Some Helpful Reminders:

1. No matter what decision I make, I can find reasons to regret that choice. It is up to me to focus on the benefits of my decision.
2. It’s easier looking hindsight and realizing what I could have done differently.
3. I need to trust myself that no matter what decision I make, I will adjust to the outcome.
4. Looking back at all the decisions I made, I have figured a way to manage through the outcome.

Written by: Anita Avedian, MFT
Director of Anger Management 818

For the holiday season, here are some helpful tips to manage your stress:

1. Listen to a relaxation exercise or meditate. Not only will you feel relaxed while doing it, but most people also experience a sense of calm that lasts for hours afterwards.

2. Exercise or yoga are great for reducing stress, even if it is only for 15 minutes a day.

3. Take little breaks throughout the day to recharge your batteries. Five or ten minutes every other hour is all it takes.

4. Remind yourself of what it is you are grateful for and refocus your mind on the positive.

5. Identify what your boundaries are and keep them intact. This will help avoid taking on too much responsibility and experiencing burn out.

6. Listen to music.

7. Utilize time management skills, such as writing a daily list of things to do and delegating tasks, in order to help manage your day.

8. Live within your financial means. Money worries are one of the causes of stress.

9. Limit your alcohol and caffeine intake.

10. Make healthy eating choices. While this may be hard during periods of increased stress (many people overeat as a reaction to stress), keeping a balanced diet helps maintain focus and energy.

11. Read a book or make time to engage in any pleasurable activity or hobby. Do something you enjoy or try a new hobby.

12. Cook or bake something and share it with others. Chocolate-chip cookies can have amazing healing powers!

13. Watch a movie

14. Relax. Take a long, hot shower or pour yourself a bubble bath and light some candles.

15. Give to others. A little giving, even something as simple as holding the door open for someone or letting someone go in front of you in line, will go a long way.

16. Give yourself a pat on the back and recognize your accomplishments for the day. All of us are so good at criticizing ourselves. Try giving yourself a compliment and see if your mood changes.

While these might be good suggestions for you, they will only work if you actually use them. Try one or two per day, and hopefully you will feel more at ease.

Erika Krueger, M.A., is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and an Anger Management 818 Facilitator who specializes in addictions and anger management.