People are often surprised to learn that the holidays are my busiest time of the year, but think about it–the holidays are stressful!

Coping with Holiday Stress

During the holidays, people reminisce about happy times and want to recreate that emotion.

But this is challenging if you’re going through difficulties, have lost a loved one, or you’re away from family. Add in the pressure of travel, coordinating schedules, preparing elaborate meals, and buying perfect gifts. . .  Well, you get the point–people can get edgy, anxious, or even clinically depressed.

Here are 5 tips to keep you balanced during the holiday season!  Let’s start with the basics:

1.  Maintain Healthy Habits, Especially Getting Enough Sleep

During the holidays, people want to get in as much celebration & togetherness as they can!  But this is often at the expense of sleep, downtime, healthy eating, and exercise.  A few days of this, and most people get sluggish, cranky, and sensitive–a bad recipe for all that togetherness!

Decide ahead of time what your “non-negotiables” are.  For example, everyone can fit in 5 minutes of exercise or stretching a day.  Or 5 minutes of mindful meditation.  Decide on at least one core healthy habit and commit to it for the month–no matter what.  And balance out the indulgences–if you sacrifice sleep one night, take a nap or turn in early the next night.  If you enjoy too much food or drink one day, go on the light side the next.

And please, try to get some sunlight!  The shorter days and spending more time indoors can feel cozy, but lack of sunlight can contribute to depression and disturb your sleep/wake cycle.

2.  Know Whether You’re an Introvert or Extravert, and Plan Your Time Accordingly

If you’re an introvert, you’re going to need time to yourself.  This is especially true if you’re a houseguest or hosting others in your home.  Let others know ahead of time that you’ve got a few things you’re going to do on your own–this helps to avoid hurt feelings (but keep in mind #4 below!).  To recharge your introvert batteries, go for a walk, go to a bookstore or diner, or just curl up in your room to read a book or flip through a magazine.  It really is okay to have a little down time!  For more information about introverts, check out Susan Cain’s book, Quiet.

If you’re an extravert, you may feel let down if you find yourself alone at times during the holidays, so you may want a heavier schedule of outings and get-togethers.  If you anticipate stretches of uncommitted time, plan ahead and volunteer, offer to babysit a friend’s children, get out somewhere to people-watch, and Skype with your out of town family and friends!

3.  It’s Okay to Say “No”

Another version of this is, “Don’t over-schedule!”  You don’t have to accept every invitation that comes your way.  Feeling rushed and behind because you’re over-committed is not the way to enjoy the the season!  And it’s okay to postpone get-togethers until January, when everyone feels less pressed for time.  Feel guilty for saying no?  Read #4 below!

4.  Remember That You Are Not Responsible for Other People’s Feelings

Another version of this is, “Keep your side of the street clean.”  As an adult, you should have a code of conduct for yourself–what behaviors you deem acceptable or not.  If you abide by your personal code of conduct and someone’s feelings are hurt, that’s unfortunate, but it’s not really your problem to solve.  This is not a free pass to be callous, but someone else’s happiness is not more important than your own.  Bonus:  Adopting this attitude also provides immunity to passive aggressive efforts of others.

5.  Don’t “Yardstick”

To quote Theodore Roosevelt:  “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  So true.  “Yardsticking” is comparing yourself to others, usually in a way that makes you feel inferior.  See more on my post here.  Another way of looking at this–“Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.”

Take good care of yourself this holiday season!