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Seven Ways to Manage Stress during the Holidays

Cartoon of people stressed out, with another group at a stress management workshop

VA offers many tools for handling stress

By Dr. Peg Dundon, VA NCP and Amanda Koehler, Staff Editor, The StayWell Company
Monday, December 8, 2014

Family, friends, fun, and food: holidays can be the best of times.

But they’re also stressful times, full of demands and deadlines.

“Stress during any time of year can become a problem and affect your health when it goes on for too long or feels overwhelming,” says Dr. Peg Dundon. Dundon is the National Program Manager for Health Behavior at VA’s National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (NCP).

Use these seven tips to de-stress during the holidays and year-round:

  1. Get physical—Take a brisk walk or be physically active in another way. Regular activity is best. Even a 10-minute chunk of active time can help!
  2. Be part of the solution—Learn problem-solving skills. They can improve your ability to cope. Your VA medical center may offer a class or information session. A web-based problem-solving program called “Moving Forward” is also available at
  3. Learn to relax—Discover relaxation and mindfulness skills. They can help you manage stress and even protect you from it.
  4. Express yourself—Keeping your thoughts bottled up can increase stress. So speak up in respectful ways. Sharing thoughts and feelings in a polite yet firm manner can help reduce stress.
  5. Manage Your Time—List what needs to get done, make plans for addressing issues, and stick to the plan as best you can.
  6. Use positive power—Stress often is associated with negative, self-critical thinking. Focus your attention on positive thoughts about yourself and others.
  7. Enjoy Yourself—Despite extra pressures from busy schedules, it’s important to take time for yourself. Plan something you enjoy. For suggestions, see VA’s Pleasant Activities Tip Sheet.
Cartoon of people enjoying activities

Take time for yourself and plan something you enjoy

VA offers many tools for handling stress, including the Manage Stress website. The site offers links to the Manage Stress Workbook and relaxation recordings. Plus, you’ll find links to many helpful websites and mobile apps that teach strong stress-management skills. You can also go to the Veterans Health Library at for more information on managing stress.

If you sense that stress is hurting your health or causing physical symptoms, talk with your health care provider. VA primary care teams have staff members who are experts in stress management.

If you feel overwhelming stress, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press option 1. You may also reach confidential help by sending a text to 838255 or through online chat at

Stress is part of all of our lives to varying degrees. The key is learning and practicing ways to manage stress that work for you, so stress doesn’t manage your health and well-being.

For more information on how to manage stress, visit the Manage Stress Web Site at