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Controlling Holiday Stress

Experts say that the holidays can make people feel out of control. We feel at the mercy of our relatives or steamrolled by the sheer force of family tradition. But you have a say. The key is to take some control over the holidays, instead of letting them control you.

For instance, you may find the family obligations of the holidays overwhelming. You have to make the rum balls according to your grandmother’s recipe, even though you personally find them inedible. You have to go over to your aunt’s for the holiday dinner, even though she always drinks too much, makes a scene, and freaks out your kids. You have to leave a poinsettia on your grandfather’s grave, even though it’s three hours and two states away. You don’t exactly want to do any of these things. You just have to.

Duckworth encourages people to stop right there. Do you really have to?

“Ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing things that make me miserable?’” Duckworth tells WebMD. “Think about the reasons.” He suggests that you draw up a list of reasons why you engage in these holiday traditions, and then a list of reasons why you shouldn’t. Just making a simple pro and con list will remind you that you do have a choice.

Changing Your Outlook

The next step is to challenge some of your assumptions. If you enjoyed the holidays differently this year, what would happen? What if you didn’t go to your aunt’s for dinner? What if you didn’t bring the poinsettias to your grandfather’s grave?

Your gut feeling might be: Calamity! Disaster! But get past that initial reaction. Think about what would really happen. Maybe your aunt would be annoyed. Is that really such a big deal? Could you make it up to her later with a brunch in February? Instead of trekking to your grandfather’s grave, could you honor him in a different way -- lighting a candle or saying a prayer?

The key is to be conscious about what you’re doing. This holiday season, don’t unthinkingly do things the same way just because that’s how you always do them. If the old holiday traditions aren’t working, if they’re not making you happy and causing holiday stress, it’s time to do something different.

10 Triggers for Holiday Blues

Typical causes of holiday stress -- and what you can do about them.
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