How can one get through the holidays and not become a victim of seasonal stress created by the hectic rush of this time of year with its increased demands? Here are ten tips to help.
1. Plan ahead. Time pressures occur during the holidays with its whirl of parties, seasonal activities, and entertaining others. During this hectic time, it is easy to become overcommitted. Before the rush begins, get a good calendar or organizer and mark off activities to complete, with the dates you plan to do them. Before agreeing to a new commitment, CHECK the calendar, and say "no" if the days are becoming too full, or reschedule for a less busy time.
2. Create a Budget: 'Tis the season to buy, when shoppers fight one another in droves at the malls and major department stores. Holidays are a time for giving, with no thought to expense. But realistically, that isn't always possible, and January can be filled with depression if your credit card overheated in the months before. Try shopping creatively, or ahead of time, for bargains. Consider making gifts that have the personal touch (and cost less) that will mean more. A nice photo of a family member framed in a hand decorated frame can mean more than a more expensive item, because it shows you spent your most valuable commodity - time -in its creation.
3. Take care of your body. A person can only cram so many activities into their calendar, and over commitment can lead to lack of sleep or "down time". This makes self care even more important, which includes getting enough sleep and eating nutritiously. Alcohol is a known depressant, so cutting back can help your mood. Rich holiday foods can create lethargy and a weight gain. Allow yourself only a taste of fat and calorie-laden foods at holiday parties, and try learning to create healthier versions of holiday favorites. Cutting down on nicotine and caffeine can also help your overall health and mood.
4. Don't forget exercise: This deserves a category all its own, since it has so many health and emotional benefits. Exercise is a known stress reliever, depression alleviator, and can help combat the holiday "battle of the bulge". Walking, biking, working out at a health club, yoga and meditation or dancing are all excellent. Find what you enjoy-you'll be more likely to continue with it.
5. Keep expectations realistic. Even Jimmy Stewart had a less than ideal holiday in the infamous movie "It's a Wonderful Life" (until the very end, anyway). Don't worry about having the perfect party, the perfect tree. It's okay to make mistakes, to have a less than magical family gathering. Toddlers are going to spill things, adults may argue, and all of these are normal occurrences in most families. Forgiveness and a realistic attitude can go a long way towards making holidays less stressful for all.
6. Acknowledge how you feel: If you and your family are dealing with loss, or separation, discuss how you feel, or give yourself permission to have a good cry, if needed, which can reduce emotional stress. This is the time to reach out for support, to listen to one another, instead of repressing feelings, which can increase tension. Sometimes holidays have to be spent alone because of work conflicts, distance, or loss of a loved one. Acknowledge the fact that holidays will bring up strong feelings about family and plan to have support such as spending times with close friends.
7. Do something for others: if you are alone during the holidays, or battling depression, sometimes helping others can be an antidote to the holiday blues. It can also overcome the isolation that augments stress and depression. Many organizations are desperate for volunteers during the holidays, and you may have a useful skill that could be just what they need.
8. Do something fun: take a day off during this time to do something that you and your family really enjoy. Or grab some "down time": put up your feet in a hot bath, light a scented candle, and listen to your favorite music. Reading a good uplifting book can be relaxing.
9. Breathe deeply: when the day is full, and evening looks even more hectic, take a minute to breathe slowly from your abdomen. These are called "cleansing breaths" and deliver oxygen to your body. They also relieve tension. Do this exercise for one minute a couple of times a day, with closed eyes. Think of something pleasant. You will be amazed at how refreshed you feel.
10. Laugh. There are tons of holiday humor sites on the web, lots of jokes shared on the radio and by friends this time of year. Take a humor break each day, and indulge in laughter, a known stress reliever. Rent a holiday movie with humor, such as "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" or "The Santa Clause" with Tim Allen. Laughter shared with family members is even more fun, and can help everyone relax a little.
With these ten tips, you can de-stress your holidays and enjoy them more. May this one be the best ever!