The holidays can be joyous, but they can also be stressful. With so much pressure to buy and give the perfect gift, attend holiday parties and other functions and stay on top of your normal routine, such as work and school, it’s no wonder we all get a little stressed. Just know you are not alone!

In fact consumer health information website Healthline conducted a recent survey which revealed that 62 percent of respondents described their stress level as “very or somewhat” elevated during the holidays, while only 10 percent reported no stress during the season. The respondents listed several stressors including the financial demands of the season, negotiating the interpersonal dynamics of family and struggling to maintain personal health habits such as an exercise and fitness routine.

Shopping alone can be a stress-filled occasion, giving new meaning to the expression “shop til you drop!” According to a 2016 survey by eBay, your heart rate may increase as much as 33 percent while you’re out looking for holiday gifts, which is the physiological equivalent to running a marathon!

Stress and depression can place a damper on your holidays, not to mention harmful your health. The key is to plan ahead, say no and ask for help, according to the Mayo Clinic. Here are a few tips they share for keeping stress at bay during what is supposed to be the “happiest time of the year.”

    Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.

    Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.

    Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones.

    Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend and stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness!

    Try these alternatives:

       Donate to a charity in someone’s name.

       Give homemade gifts.

       Start a family gift exchange with a limit on spending.

    Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list.

    Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.

    Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become an excuse to overeat and overindulge. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.

Try these suggestions:

       Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.

       Get plenty of sleep.

       Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.

    Take a breather. Make time for self care. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. Go for a walk, listen to relaxing music, visit your local library and browse your favorite section or recent magazines or book a massage.

    Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Don’t let the holidays become a season you dread. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can stop putting pressure on yourself and enjoy the holidays with your friends and loved ones!

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