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AZ: 7 Tips for Coping with Holiday Stress

November 18, 2014

by Office of Communications

Dealing with the stress of the holidays can be difficult, even under the best of circumstances. Melissa Flint, Psy.D., Assistant Professor in the Clinical Psychology Program at Midwestern University, gives her advice for being resilient through the holiday season.

"People may be surprised by their reaction to the stressors of the holiday season," says Dr. Flint. "Many of us suffer from the 'perfect holiday syndrome,' expecting that which is unrealistic and, honestly, unattainable.  The frustration we feel when things don't go as expected can be overwhelming.  It is important to prioritize and be willing to reach out for support when it is needed.  Evaluating your priorities this season may help you become more resilient to deal with both the joys and challenges of the season," she adds. 

When it comes to handling holiday stress, there are several important things to remember:

  1. Learn to identify what your triggers for holiday stress are and work to minimize them. "If the hustle of holiday shopping makes you virtually mad each year, ask yourself what steps you can take to minimize this impact.  Do you need to shop early?  Or perhaps do more of your shopping online?" says Dr. Flint. "Many individuals who I work with who finding shopping too anxiety-producing have decided to work with gift cards instead of fighting the holiday crowds."
  2. Understand relationships are challenging, particularly around the holidays. "Tensions are often heightened during the holidays - especially if you are thrust together for several days in close quarters!" says Dr. Flint. "Alternately, there are equally difficult issues when it comes to the loss of a loved one, particularly if this is the first holiday season without them.  Dealing with grief during the holidays is important and often begins with reaching out for support when it is needed." 
  3. Understand your financial situation. "The stretching of your budget can bring a great deal of stress to your life (not to mention robbing you of your peace this season)," says Dr. Flint.  "Overspending is a common concern and the ramifications of it last for months, even years to come.  Budget and be realistic. If finances are very tight (as for so many this year), be creative with your gift giving. What talents do you have that would be a blessing to others around you?  Think about the everyday life of the person that you want to give a gift to.   Your offer of watching the kids so the couple can have a 'date night' may mean far more to them than the bottle of wine you wanted to buy.  Remember, gifts  cannot buy love.  We need to show love in a variety of ways all throughout the year.  It is not just a holiday feeling! Budget and stick to it = peace of mind come January's credit card statements!"
  4. Be cognizant of the physical demands of the season. "It is very important that we remember to care for ourselves this holiday season.  Adequate sleep, hydration and nutrition, paired with exercise and other self care routines are critical in keeping us as resilient as we can be throughout the stress of the holidays," says Dr. Flint.
  5. Monitor your expectations. "The holidays can't be perfect or 'just like last year,' Dr. Flint says. "As families change and grow, traditions and rituals need to change as well. Be realistic and flexible.  Ultimately, your ability to do so will bring your enjoyment level up, too!"
  6. Learn to say no.  "Saying yes when you should say no leads to feeling resentful and overwhelmed.  Friends and colleagues should understand if you can't  participate in every project or activity.  Don't over schedule yourself and/or your family as this often leads to increased stress and even physical illness."
  7. Be willing to reach out for professional support if needed. "Feelings of persistent sadness, anxiety, physical complaints, problems with sleep, irritability, hopelessness, helplessness and thoughts of suicide are all reasons to seek professional help.  It is never shameful to reach out for help that will lead to you coping with things better!  We can all use the help from time to time."

In addition to Clinical Psychology, the Midwestern University Multispecialty Clinic offers quality comprehensive healthcare in Family Medicine, Foot and Ankle Services, Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine, Pediatric Services, and Pharmacy Services. It is one of four state-of-the-art healthcare facilities on Midwestern's Glendale Campus, joining the Midwestern University Dental Institute, the Midwestern University Eye Institute, and the new Animal Health Institute opening in December. For more information, visit or call 623/537-6000.

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Office of Communications
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