Stress Issues
Coping with Holiday Stress
Dec 15, 2015 - 11:09:28 AM

( - Santa Claus has a major toy building operation to oversee at the North Pole and an impossible delivery schedule to keep. Still, Kris Kringle finds a way to remain jolly.

Perhaps that's because he uses one of the tips Ira Halper, MD, director of the Cognitive Therapy Center in the Department of Psychiatry at Rush, recommends for coping with holiday stress. Santa Claus makes a list - and even checks it twice - to keep track of who's naughty and nice.

Lists are a great way for any of us to stay organized while contending with last-minute shopping, crowds, holiday travel, financial strain and dysfunctional family dynamics.

With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it's easy for even the most jovial among us to become frazzled. And there is no shortage of negative ways to cope: Alcohol is plentiful and overeating is easy. But positive ways to manage stress aren't difficult to implement, either, so Halper recommends giving the following a try:

Stay organized.

To help you keep track of your many tasks, make an "ABC" list:

Having a set of clear goals will help you avoid becoming overwhelmed, which can happen if you suddenly forget something on a schedule that only exists in your head.

Try relaxation techniques.

Reframe your thoughts.

"If you can't afford to host an expensive meal, are family and friends really going to think poorly of you? Often, the realization that your worst nightmare isn't likely to come true is enough to alleviate the stress," Halper says. "And if somebody does think poorly of you because there isn't an elaborate spread, is that person really a good friend?"

Being mindful of your thoughts can be a powerful tool for regulating your mood. Often, negative thinking is unfounded.

If a negative event does occur, use the same type of self-talk to put it in perspective. If you dread seeing your in-laws every year and they validate that feeling with their behavior, remind yourself that you only have control over your own actions, their behavior is a reflection of themselves and not you, and the event won't last forever.

It's a technique that can take some practice, and a cognitive-behavioral therapist such as Halper can help if you're finding it tough to manage stress on your own and are feeling overwhelmed. It can be helpful for acute or chronic stress.


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