We all know how we’re supposed to respond to that question – “Of course!” The fact is, as much as we love spending time with family and friends, and engaging in traditional holiday activities, many of us, especially parents, experience increased stress this time of year.
Trying to find the time to juggle shopping, events, work and family commitments can be overwhelming most days, and is amplified during the holiday season. Increased stress can lead to unhealthy behaviors, such as overindulging in food and alcohol, which can actually lead to even greater stress in the long run.
The key to handling stress and actually enjoying the holiday season is to find healthy ways to minimize and manage your stress level. Since list-making has been a holiday tradition as old as Santa himself, here’s one you might want to check out, maybe twice, to prevent stress from spoiling your enjoyment this holiday season:
- Decide what is truly important. Good relationships with family and friends are always at the top of most lists, so view the holidays as a time to reconnect with people. Other priorities might include preserving traditions (or starting new ones) for your children or attending church services or musical events.
- Create a plan and stick to it. Start your shopping as early as possible and create a realistic schedule for all your other tasks. Also establish a budget for gifts and special occasions, and track your spending. Discuss gift-giving costs and limits with all family members well before the holidays.
- Set realistic expectations. Things might not work out exactly how you hope they will, and, it’s okay. Don’t expect your family or relatives to change their personalities and don’t bring up old family quarrels. The holidays are not the time to try to resolve long-standing family issues. Make the most of your experiences and the times you have with your loved ones.
- Commit to enjoying yourself in moderation. When stressed out, many of us overeat, caffeinate our nervous systems or consume alcohol in excess. Be aware of your own unhealthy coping mechanisms, particularly when you’re in uncomfortable situations or are overtired. Make a conscious effort to turn down an extra cookie, cup of coffee or glass of wine.
- Relax. It’s easier said than done. Try to set aside some time alone for yourself to reflect on what you cherish most about the holidays. Even if you just take a 10 minutes a day to pause and take a few deep breaths, finding quiet time to reconnect with yourself can have a dramatic and positive impact on your stress and anxiety levels.
- Exercise. You may not have the time to keep to your regular fitness routine, but getting in daily exercise, even if just for 15 – 20 minutes, is not only imperative to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but it also works wonders at decreasing negative feelings such as stress, depression and anxiety.
- Share responsibilities. Often one person in a family (or workplace, for that matter) seems to get stuck doing almost all of the work. Sound familiar? Then delegate! For example, if hosting the family holiday dinner is one of your great joys, then enlist help with the cooking and the cleanup. Asking for and receiving help and support from those who care about you will help alleviate your stress and elevate your mood.
- Don’t skimp on sleep. Rest is one of the best gifts you can give yourself at any time of the year. Also, be aware that alcohol can really interfere with the quality of your sleep and add to stress, so limit the amount you consume to assure you get a full, and restful, eight hours of sleep in a night, whenever possible.
Photo Credit: Mike Hoff