Proven Strategies to Thrive Despite ChristmasTheoretically, Christmas is a joyous occasion, but let’s face it — it can stress us out. Lots of presents to buy, too much food and alcohol consumed, and exercise ignored. For some it represents seeing people who have been avoided all year. Not surprisingly, calls for help to helplines and charities go through the roof during the holiday period.

This can lead to us feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope. It can prevent us from experiencing the extraordinary benefits of a holiday. We can be consumed by what isn’t rather than what is.

Imagine if it weren’t like that. Imagine if you returned to work in January full of zest and purpose. Here are a few proven, helpful strategies to do just that.

Plan ahead. There are three main aspects to consider here — your finances, your well-being, and next year.

It is so easy to spend money we don’t have during this period: presents, parties, food, etc. Credit card bills can mount up. Consider setting a total budget that you will spend for Christmas, plan how to spend it, and then record everything you spend. You may also consider non-monetary gifts such as writing notes of appreciation to family members. Or buy one great present for each person over 18 instead of a dozen so-so ones.

Well-being strategies can fall by the wayside when there are so many distractions. Plan one week ahead and work out when you plan to do some pleasant exercise (more later), activities and rest. If you don’t plan it in advance, it won’t happen.

If it is too late to make changes this year, resolve that this never has to happen again, and write down what you want to change for next year.

Your mood is largely within your control. You can improve it by a 30-minute brisk walk, at least eight uninterrupted hours of sleep, and a focus on gratitude.

If, over the holidays, you will have to spend time with someone who causes you anger or anxiety, go into the situation with realistic expectations. If you have spent a lifetime having difficulty with this person it is unlikely Christmas lunch will be different.

Avoid alcohol and controversial topics. Alcohol can inflame the situation. If you feel compelled to have a drink, set a low limit (one or two) and then switch to water or soda.

Your well-being is your first priority. If you feel your agitation rising, just walk away. Find someone else to talk to. Help in the kitchen. Play with the dog. Go out to the garden. Ride into the sunset. It’s just not worth it.

May the best in life and love and happiness be ahead of you.