If your stack of unfinished holiday cards and the never-ending lines at the mall are leaving you frazzled, you aren’t alone. A new study shows that more than 80% of Americans feel anxious at this time of year. Our gift to you: coping strategies for common yuletide triggers.
Hazard: Overbooking Yourself
Serenity Solution: When the season has you adding party planner, personal shopper, design star and pastry chef to your job description, you’re bound to start feeling crunched. “It really is okay to say no to invites and requests,” says Sheela Raja, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist in Chicago. “Agreeing to another commitment just because you’d feel guilty turning it down is just asking for more stress.” Create calm instead by respectfully and firmly declining: “I have too many family obligations to be able to run this year’s bake sale, but I hope to help out in the spring.” Most people will understand—and a few may even want to borrow your tactics.
Holiday Hazard: Maxing Out the Plastic
Serenity Solution: The average American spends about $700 annually on gifts, not to mention travel, food and IMAX tickets to the new Mission: Impossible movie. Before you start seeing your credit card balance creep up—and worry about the debt that could follow you for months to come—examine your finances and set a realistic budget. (For help, go to familycircle.com/holidaybudget.)
Holiday Hazard: Succumbing to Family Drama
Serenity Solution: It’s not uncommon for relatives to clash over the same topics year in and year out, so try to have a few calm comebacks and conversation changers ready ahead of time. (Grandma doesn’t like your son’s long hair? Remind her of the mop-top your brother sported in the ’70s.) “All families have misunderstandings, and they tend to build up when you’re spending so much time together,” says Raja. Above all, accept your family members for who they are—nobody is perfect, and chances are, they’re feeling strained too.
Holiday Hazard: Indulging in Too Many Goodies
Serenity Solution: Dieting is a year-round struggle for many women, but with holiday favorites in abundance all month long, the number on the scale is bound to bring on added anxiety. “We also tend to eat more when we’re feeling stressed, so it’s a vicious cycle,” says Raja. Have a light, healthy snack before a party (like veggies with hummus or kale chips) so you don’t show up starving. And make a deal with yourself: “Yes, I’ll have a cookie, but I’ll stop after one.” If you slip up, forgive yourself and move on.
Christine Mattheis is a blogger for Family Circle Magazine.