Podcast Title: Health and Safety to Go!
Episode #: 98 Preventing Holiday Stress and Anxiety

Recorded Music and Intro: Welcome to Health and Safety to Go, a production of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, broadcasting from Hamilton, Ontario.

Host: Thanks for joining us. Today we’re sharing tips for the holidays.   

The holidays can be a special time of year, with lots of socializing, family gatherings, and time-honoured traditions. However, for some, the financial, emotional and physical demands of the season can be stressful, cause anxiety, and even trigger depression.

The pressure to create the perfect holiday and the seemingly endless to do list can be overwhelming. Being realistic, planning ahead and asking for support can help prevent stress and depression from derailing your holiday.

Here are some tips to help you cope with the stress and anxieties of the season and enjoy the holiday festivities.

Try to be realistic about your expectations for the holidays and what you can accomplish. In your efforts to create the perfect holiday you can take on too much and end up feeling overwhelmed. As your family changes and grows, you may have to be flexible with some of your traditions and be open to creating new ones, such as holding your family feast on a different day to accommodate your adult children.


You can also plan and pre-empt stress by getting organized: plan your menus, make shopping and "to do" lists well ahead of time. Designate specific days for shopping, cleaning, baking, visiting friends and other activities to avoid last minute rushing around.


Also, plan to stay on track with your budget. Decide how much money you can afford to spend before you go shopping. If you overspend now, it could create financial worries for months to come. If money is tight, consider creative alternatives for gift giving such as donating to a charity in someone's name, buying for the kids only, giving homemade gifts or drawing names to reduce the number of gifts you have to give.


Remember to ask for help. Don't think you have to go it alone when you are entertaining. To ease the load, invite your friends and family to bring a dish or a dessert. Make sure to get help with the party clean up. Many hands lighten the load.


And don't fret the family. Emotions often run high during the holidays and family conflicts can intensify - especially if you're in close quarters for several days. Try to get enough sleep to help you cope with any potential tensions and avoid experiencing feelings of depression, irritability, and frustration. If spending time with family is stressful for you, limit the amount you spend with them. Be sensitive to others who may also be feeling the stress and depression of the holidays.


If you’re spending the holidays alone this year, consider reaching out. Spending the holidays alone can be hard and may leave you feeling lonely and sad, with a sense of being disconnected. Make an effort to spend some time with a friend or connect with a friend or your family by phone. Find community, religious or other social events to attend that can provide good opportunities for you to talk with and meet new people.


Try volunteering. Lend a hand and lift your spirits. Food banks and other charitable organizations often need extra help this time of year and volunteering is a good way to meet new friends while helping those in need.


Get real with your feelings. If you have recently lost someone close to you or you are missing loved ones, it's normal to feel sadness and grief. Allow yourself to feel and express any emotions you may experience during the holiday season.


Don’t forget to maintain your healthy habits. How well you take care of yourself will have a big impact on how you manage emotionally. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.

Resist the urge to overdo holiday food and alcoholic drinks which will likely only add to your stress and guilt. Try eating a healthy snack or some soup before the holiday gatherings to take the edge off your hunger. It may help prevent you from going overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.

During the holidays it can be tempting to overuse alcohol and other substances to help you relax. If you have a substance use problem, all of the socializing and the alcoholic drinks that accompany them can make this a particularly difficult time. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has put together some low risk drinking guidelines to help.

Also, make sure you relax and recharge. When you are exhausted, you get run down and increase your risk for stress. Take care of yourself by carving out some down time each day to do something you enjoy that will help you clear your mind and relax. Even a few minutes of time for yourself can help refresh and calm you. Take a walk, listen to calming music, watch a holiday movie or delve into a good book. Taking control of your time helps you feel empowered and can help prevent you from feeling melancholy.


Get professional help if you are continually feeling sad or anxious, physically ill, are unable to sleep, are feeling irritable and hopeless, or can't face your daily tasks.

Contact your doctor or visit your local hospital emergency room - especially if these feelings last for a while. With a plan and a strategy for coping with the challenges of the holiday season you can replace stress and distress with fun and festivities.

Conclusion by Host: For more holiday tips visit www.ccohs.ca, thanks for listening everyone.