Dealing with the pressure of gift-giving

Pressure of gift-giving

Sales and bargains can be exciting, as Black Friday kicks off another holiday shopping season. But shoppers need to be cautious — excessive spending in pursuit of the "perfect" holiday can be a source of more stress. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the need to find just the right gift for everyone on your list, here are some tips:

Keep a holiday "to-do" list. Worried that you'll forget to buy a gift for someone or pick up that important ingredient for your holiday meal? Clear your head by putting those thoughts on paper (or in an electronic list), marking those with the highest priority. Not only will you reduce the risk of forgetting something, you'll be better able to focus.

Set realistic expectations. It's healthy to share in the holiday spirit by giving gifts, donating time and money to charities and celebrating with family, friends and coworkers. But it's also important not to get overwhelmed by the pressure to make this year's holidays the best ever. Set realistic expectations for gifts and holiday activities. Instead of trying to take on everything, identify the most important holiday tasks and take small, concrete steps to accomplish them.

Know yourself. Be aware of your stress level and know what stresses you out, especially during the holiday season. People experience stress in different ways. You may have a hard time concentrating or making decisions, feel angry, irritable or out of control or experience headaches, muscle tension or a lack of energy. Learn your own stress signals.

Recognize how you deal with stress. With holiday parties and celebrations, it's easy to overindulge. Do you engage in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, drinking or eating poorly to cope with your stress? Do you lose patience with your children, spouse or coworkers when you feel overwhelmed? Understand how you respond in stressful situations.

Take care of yourself. Eat right, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and engage in regular physical activity. It may seem a challenge with so much to do this time of year, but taking care of yourself during the holidays helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with stress. No matter how hectic life gets, make time for yourself — even if it's just reading a good book, listening to your favorite music or taking a short walk.

Ask for support. Accepting help from supportive friends and family can improve your ability to manage stress. Use the holidays to reconnect with friends and family and strengthen your support network. If you continue to feel overwhelmed, you may want to talk to a psychologist, who can help you better manage stress and change unhealthy behaviors.