Hosting your in-laws for a long weekend…trudging through the mall crowd…hunting endlessly for that “perfect” gift. The holiday hustle can wear anyone down. While stress is a normal part of life, especially during the season of joy and cheer, some people will try to relax by engaging in risky behaviors, such as drinking alcohol or playing slots. Several studies have shown that life stressors can negatively impact alcohol use and abuse. In one study, men in particular were more likely to take unhealthy risks, like gambling or illegal drug use, while stressed. Help yourself avoid unhealthy coping strategies by trying these simple holiday stress relief tips:

  • Learn to say “no.” It can seem like everyone wants something from you this time of year. The problem is that saying “yes” to every request significantly amps up the stress factor. Maintain a calmer and healthier state of mind by prioritizing requests and then agreeing to help only with those that are most important to you.
  • Take a few shortcuts. Do you really need to make cookies from scratch for your kid’s kindergarten party? Is serving three kinds of potatoes on Christmas Day essential for holiday happiness? Pinpoint the tasks where a shortcut will reduce hassle. For example, prepare treats using a premade dough roll for that classroom party, or stick to one potato dish for dinner.
  • Stay healthy. This time of year it becomes all too easy to abandon healthy, feel-good habits, like exercising regularly or eating healthful foods. Schedule exercise time for yourself every week and make it a non-negotiable part of the day. Keep food habits in check by limiting sugary holiday treats. In addition, avoid the “I’m in a rush” fast food trap by planning homemade meals in advance.
  • Make time for yourself. Since the holiday season, especially for parents of little ones, often revolves around others, be sure to invest in your own emotional well-being by doing something just for you. Relax in the bathtub, treat yourself to a new book, or wake up before the rest of the family to enjoy a cup of coffee in silence.
  • Connect with others. Supportive social connections are an important part of reducing stress. This holiday season spend time nurturing the healthy relationships in your life. Have coffee with the cousin you haven’t seen in ages, bake cookies with a friend, or turn off the smartphones and tablets so you can watch a movie as a family. .

For more information about addiction education, prevention, and treatment in Lancaster and Lebanon, contact the Compass Mark team at (717) 299-2831.   Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/