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Ways to prepare for and deal with holiday stress

It’s the time of year to be thankful for everything you have and yet some can’t get past what we don’t have in 2020.

If holiday stress is already getting to you, Dr. Andrea Taylor, an assistant professor with the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at UT Health, offers these tips to avoid getting too anxious.

SET EXPECTATIONS FOR SAFETY

If it’s at your home and you want guests to wear masks or use hand sanitizer, tell them that before the holiday to avoid awkward confrontations.

If you set the expectation when you give the invitation, people can choose whether they want to join or not, said Dr. Taylor.

ZOOM COULD HELP INCLUDE MORE PEOPLE IN THE GATHERING

“Many of us are tired of zoom but again it’s using it creatively to say, ‘you know what I can actually even connect with more people this Thanksgiving, because I can, I can zoom with them when normally I would just be at one person’s home or I’d be trying to make it from this person’s home to this person,’” Dr. Taylor said. “If we choose to focus on, ‘well, I can’t do this year and I can’t do that or I can’t see this person, we’re going to be in a very negative place and it’s true, we have a lot of limitations and I think it’s okay to acknowledge that, but not dwell on it.’”

MAKE IT SIMPLE

If the holidays always make you a little anxious, now is your year to make it simple and plan ahead.

“Even if it’s taking one thing off that list or doing one thing ahead of time,” Dr. Taylor suggested. “I’m going to repackage the utensils and wrap those in a napkin. So, those are cleaned and set aside.”

STAY MINDFUL

Staying mindful through the chaos by focusing on your breathing or focusing on your senses can help too.

“I’m going to put my feet on the ground and I’m going to focus on what it feels like to have my feet on the ground in this moment," Dr. Taylor said. "So, part of what that does is … it just brings me back right here, right now so I’m really being very present.”

If things get too stressful, discretely leave the room or sit in your car for a few minutes.

“Say ‘Oh I’ll be right back. I need to take care of something’ they don’t need to know that the thing that you need to take care of is you!” Dr. Taylor said. “It’s absolutely okay and it’s really important to do that.”

MAKE THIS YEAR DIFFERENT. TOTALLY DIFFERENT!

If trying to host the holidays the traditional way only sets you up for disappointment that things are not the same this year, Taylor suggests making them totally different.

Create new traditions by cooking a different meal, for example.

Maybe a lobster or chicken wings become something new at your Thanksgiving table that you can joke about when things do go back to the traditional way.

GET YOUR HOLIDAY STRESS QUESTIONS ANSWERED

KPRC plans to dive deeper into this topic with our Ask 2 panel Thursday night.

A panel of mental health experts will answer questions you have about holiday stress.

Register here.