In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

December 17, 2013

The ‘In the Loop’ guide to a stress-free holiday season

By Elizabeth Harty


Okay, this really isn't so much our guide as it is advice from Mayo Clinic physician and stress-reduction guru Amit Sood, M.D., but the basic fact remains: the holidays can bring a lot of pressure to live up to the lyrics to all those Christmas songs swirling around this time of year. This is supposed to be "the hap-happiest season of all." For some, that might be the case. But for others, the stress and worry that go with trying to make the holidays picture perfect can bring out the Grinch in us.

It doesn't have to be that way, however, according to Dr. Sood. “The holiday season should be a time of joy and celebrations with family, friends and loved ones,” he says in a post on the Mayo Clinic News Network. “But sometimes we lose sight of that and become overwhelmed.”

Dr. Sood also recently told USA Today that some, if not all, of the stress many feel around the holidays can be traced to "over-scheduling, not getting enough sleep, expecting too much of the season, and being perfectionists about gifts, decorating and entertaining."(That list alone made us tired.)

How do we put a lid on all of that holiday worry, when there's so much to do and so little time? Dr. Sood offers these tips as a good place to start:

Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect, he says, or "just like last year." As our families change and grow, so can our holiday traditions.

Set aside differences. We all have family members who seem to do their best to be Grinches. Dr. Sood says it's best for everyone if we look the other way and do what we can to accept them for who they are. "Set aside grievances," he says, "to enjoy the holiday cheer."

Learn to say no. This doesn't apply, we hope, to holiday goodies. But it does apply, Dr. Sood says, to knowing when to say no to those things we just don't have time for. "Friends and colleagues will understand," he says, "if you can't participate in every project or activity."

Be sure to take some "me time." It's important to make time for ourselves during the holidays, Dr. Sood says. Even if it's only for a few short minutes. "Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do," he says.

Get help if you need it. If you don't live close to family, or if holiday cheer leaves you feeling lonely or isolated, Dr. Sood suggests attending holiday events and get-togethers within your local community or church. "They can offer support and companionship," he says. If that doesn't help, and if those feelings last beyond the holiday season, Dr. Sood says it may be best to "talk to your doctor or a mental health professional."

For more tips on managing holiday stress, check out this video interview with Dr. Sood and the new Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living. You can also participate in a holiday stress Twitter chat hosted by Mayo Clinic and others on Wednesday, Dec. 18, from 1 to 2 p.m. EST.

If it's not too stressful, share your comments below.

Tags: Amit Sood, Community, Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-free Living, Mayo Clinic News Network

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