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How to handle stress during the holidays

Instead of preparing for battle this season, consider some tips that can make the holiday gatherings more enjoyable.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — If you’re ready to pull your hair out this Thanksgiving – and it’s only day one of the holiday season – that’s OK. Many others are too.

“Instead of preparing for battle this season, consider some tips that can make the holiday gatherings more enjoyable,” says Kelley Breidigan, a full-time senior community lecturer at Ohio State University’s College of Social Work.

Here is some advice to guide you through the holidays.

Try and control your reaction in a stressful situation.

We are not forced to engage in difficult conversations and you have the right to say “I don’t want to discuss this right now” or “This is not a topic I am interested in discussing.” and shift the conversation to something else. If the person persists, don’t be afraid to excuse yourself and walk away.

Avoid potentially upsetting topics. 

Try and keep conversations conflict-free by avoiding sensitive topics. Avoiding topics that lead to arguments can diffuse tense situations before they begin.

Have realistic expectations of others during the holidays.

Spend more time engaging people you enjoy seeing and feel comfortable engaging. It is also important not to waste energy trying to change others.

Breidigan also says holidays don’t have to be perfect, so take the pressure off.

Respect your boundaries by saying no if necessary.

Try and remove things from your list if you feel overwhelmed and enlist others to help whenever you can, you don’t have to do it all.

Make some time for yourself, even just a few minutes.

 Find something that reduces stress such as deep breathing exercises or listening to music to restore inner calm.

Develop and stick to a budget. 

To decrease the likelihood of financial burdens. You might also ask others to share in purchasing and preparing food or items for the celebration.

Plan ahead.

Items may be limited this year, so shop early or consider shopping online for items. This may also help you avoid crowded shopping environments.

When it comes to the amount of time to spend with family, Breidigan recommends no more than three days and two nights. This will help minimize the stress on the host and guests. She also says parents need to be mindful of children who might feel some anxiety as they adjust to seeing relatives in-person for the first time.

Breidigan also says holidays don’t have to be perfect, so take the pressure off.

It is important to set a calm example for children.

If you let holiday stress and family conflict get to you, your children will definitely be aware of this.  So, it is important to take steps to handle your own stress and anxiety.

Have realistic expectations for children.

Avoid expecting too much from your child when they are hungry or tired. Try having small healthy snacks on hand and try to minimize sugary holiday treats and avoid meltdowns.

Schedule some time for children outside.

Exercise and fresh air can provide a mood-enhancing reset for your child and adults, so make sure you schedule some time for children to run and play outside during the holiday. 

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