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Overcoming Holiday Stress

By William Epperly, MD, FAAFP of Forum Health Bloomingdale

De-stress during the holiday craziness

Around the holidays, the hustle and bustle of the season can turn a season of peace and joy into a time of wanting to pull your hair out!


But over the years, I have accumulated a list of action steps a person can take to reduce the stress and the effects of stress in their lives. And this is probably a good time to remind people of some of them.  So here’s my Top 40 list of the best stress reducers just in time for the holidays!

• Have a quiet time every day early in the morning to read, meditate, or pray.
• Take breaks more often than you do now.
• Go for a nice relaxing or a brisk walk.
• Take a deep breath before reacting negatively to someone or something.
• Listen to great music.
• Be sure to laugh as much as possible, including at yourself. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
• Decide to be cheerful.
• Wish good will to people you meet (even if you don’t feel like it).
• Exercise at least three times a week doing something you enjoy at least a little.
• Sleep seven to nine hours a night.
• Have a hobby.  Do something you enjoy other than work.
• Seek the help and advice of others whom you trust.
• Make a conscious effort to think and act like the person you want to be.
• Thoughts and attitudes lead to actions, but also actions lead to thoughts and attitudes.
• Admit your anger or frustration.  Take responsibility for your feelings.
• Establish and remind yourself of your priorities and the BIG PICTURE.
• Remind yourself that a year from now, most of the things upsetting you now will probably not even matter.
• Spend time reading interesting or fun books, conversing, watching programs that lift your spirit.
• Allow extra time for the unexpected. Give yourself more MARGIN.
• Become aware of tense muscles and relax them.  Better yet, go get a massage.
• Put regularity into your life; set time for meals, religious practices, and recreation.
• Make a realistic list of tasks to accomplish each day, and celebrate your successes when you accomplish them.
• Do not overload your schedule. Learn to say “no”.
• Listen quietly for people to finish their sentences.
• Talk to your friends and relatives. Keep in touch.
• Get up 15 minutes earlier than you think you need to.
• Prepare for the morning the night before.
• Don’t rely on your memory. Write it down in a planner.
• Ask someone to be your “vent partner”.
• Simplify meal times.
• Remember you always have options/choices.
• Pet a friendly dog or cat.
• Look for the silver lining in the dark clouds.
• Know your limitations and don’t be afraid to let others know them, too.
• Write a note of love and encouragement to a far away friend.
• Remember that stress is an attitude.
• Quit trying to “fix’ other people. Instead focus on being the best person YOU can be.
• For perspective, remember that your whole life is just a blip on the screen of eternity.
• Take specific action steps to change or solve what you actually have control over.
• Let go of the things you DON’T have control over. Sometimes you just have to let go and let God.

Family having Christmas dinner at home, gathered around the table, enjoying their time together; daughter hugging her mother and smiling

Start practicing a few of these, make them habits, and you will be making serious progress in one of the biggest areas of Lifestyle Medicine – stress management.  Hope you have a blessed, and not a stressed, holiday season!