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The holidays can be a time of joy and merriment, but also a time of great stress and anxiety. From time-sensitive shopping to family obligations, from financial strain to feelings of loneliness, the holiday season often creates more stress than fun.

Making the holidays merry, however, may just be a simple matter of managing your responsibilities and time…and learning how to say no when you’re overextended (or disinterested).

Here are 7 ideas from our counseling team, designed to help you survive the holiday mania with a smile on your face:

1. Keep up your regular workout routine. You may get thrown off from your regular exercise regimen due to all the parties and family obligations. However, during the holiday season, it’s more important than ever to keep working out as usual, not only to keep your endorphins going strong, but also to work off the extra holiday calories!

2. Have realistic expectations of the holidays. The holidays seem like a time when you should feel merry and bright, but, actually, it can be one of the more stressful times of the year. Be realistic about how you imagine the holidays will be versus the reality of the season.

3. Don’t say yes when you want to say no. You’ll no doubt receive invitations to holiday parties, neighborhood gatherings, cookie swaps, and “Secret Santa” exchanges. If you said yes (or are about to), ask yourself… do I feel obligated to go? Or do I truly want to go? Accepting invitations out of obligation creates stress. There are so many other things you could be doing, like taking care of you by resting or getting things done and staying ahead of the game. It takes strength to honor your desires and decline invitations. In the end, taking care of you benefits everyone in your life. Just say no. The more often you do it, the easier it becomes.

4. Enjoy holiday treats in moderation. The holidays come chock full of cookies, chocolates, sweets, egg nog, and seasonal cocktails. They’re everywhere you go! Enjoy these treats in moderation and don’t overindulge. You’ll thank yourself later.

5. Don’t let guilt take over. You may feel guilty for a variety of reasons, such as not spending enough time with certain relatives, not buying the right presents, not balancing work, life and the holiday season well, or eating more than you feel you should. But realize this is part of the holiday season! Sure, there may be family obligations—but how about the rest of the time? Be sure to take care of you and spend time with people and family members who make you feel good about yourself? Enjoy as much as you can and don’t let guilt take over the fun.

6. Stick with your routine. Try to keep some semblance of your normal work and daily life routine. Keep things going. Continue to engage in hobbies you enjoy and wake up and go to bed at your usual time. This will help lessen any anxiety that comes along with the season.

7. Enjoy the events that are only here for a limited time. The holidays bring special events that are here only for a short time: holiday shows, tree lighting, house decorating, holiday parties, and other themed events. Enjoy these things that come only during this time of year… but only if you want to. Remember… you have the right to say no to anything you don’t want to do.

Follow any of these 7 pieces of counseling advice and let the holidays become more fun than stressful. You won’t lose yourself to the mayhem of the shopping season, but you’ll still have a good time with family and friends…which is what the season is all about, anyway!

If you are feeling overwhelmed by this holiday season and don’t know what to do, start by requesting a free phone consultation to be partnered with a member of our counseling team. Creative Counseling Center employs some of the best therapists in the Denver metro area—whatever you’re struggling with, we can help. Use the brief form below to request a free phone consultation, or call us to schedule your first appointment. We have openings this week

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