Austin, Texas-based counselor Stephanie Trueblood, MA, LPC, says that while there might be plenty of laughter, food and shopping these next few months, there is also “stress galore.” To combat, Trueblood shares these five tips with her clients:

Austin, Texas-based counselor Stephanie Trueblood, MA, LPC, says that while there might be plenty of laughter, food and shopping these next few months, there is also “stress galore.” To combat, Trueblood shares these five tips with her clients:

1. Leave if necessary.
She says, “Even though you can’t change your family, you have the power to limit your exposure to them by giving yourself permission to leave or take a break. You don’t have to make a scene or anything  — you can simply take your laptop and say, ‘I have some work I need to get done, so I’m heading to Starbucks for a few hours … bye!’”

2. Pick and choose.
Say “No thank you” to activities that are just too difficult or do not offer some joy. Plus, declining an invitation to a boring holiday office party may open up a time slot to accept an invitation for something fun to try.

3. Lose the guilt.
When saying “no” in a kind, gentle way, Trueblood explains, “… you’re showing yourself the utmost respect and sending yourself and those around you the message that you value your time and energy.”

4. Mark calendar with “yeses.”
RSVP right away for annual holiday invitations that have been enjoyed in the past, and look out for opportunities to try something new and interesting.  

5. Slow down.
While this may seem impossible this time of year, Trueblood challenges people to take moments to engage their senses: truly smell the cinnamon candle, savor the cup of hot cocoa, place the ornament carefully and remember where it comes from, and relish the sense of wonder elicited by the twinkling lights.

Last year, one of Health’s “25 Ways to Fight Holiday Stress” was to simply get outside for a walk or hike. Whether alone or connecting with family or friends, getting outdoors in the sunshine stimulates serotonin, which, when depleted, messes with moods.