Have you started Christmas shopping yet? Have you made a list, put up the decorations, driven to the mall, tried to park at the mall, ordered a turkey, mailed out Christmas cards…? Are you having fun yet? If the answer is “not really,” don’t feel guilty. You are experiencing something many people feel leading up to the Christmas season, including myself: holiday stress!
Christmas comes with high expectations, and that means burning the candle at both ends, keeping up with work and family obligations as well as all the extra chores that come with planning the perfect Christmas. It’s getting to the point where I feel like I need to hire an event planner and a personal shopper to pull it off. Which reminds me of the huge financial stress it can also bring to those of us who feel like we need to throw money at the situation just to keep from going under.
After years of feeling more frazzled than festive, I figured out a simple way to handle the holidays without drinking too much eggnog or stressing out so much that I don’t enjoy the joy of the season. In a nutshell, the best thing to do is stay healthy, both mentally and physically. That means eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep. That’s easier said than done, of course. Eating well can be a challenge in the presence of so much chocolate, cookies and other goodies that are a traditional part of the Christmas season. I always have to stop and remember that eating well does not mean eating too much – and it also does not mean starving yourself! It’s all about balance. Taking time to go to the gym or pool or even an exercise class can also be a challenge, what with all that extra shopping to do, and getting up early on these dark days is a seasonal challenge. But working out actually adds energy, instead of taking it away. I don’t know exactly how that works, and I don’t really need to understand. I just know that it’s like going to the energy station and filling up your tank.
Here are a few other tips for coping with holiday stress – find out more at Healthy Workers.
Exercise – Exercise produces endorphins, which are a strong natural opiate, with the power to improve your mood, lower blood pressure, reduce levels of stress hormones and boost the immune system.
Meditate – It has been proven to reduce anxiety and help you cope with difficult situations. When we’re stressed our heartbeat increases and our breathing shallows. Take a moment to regulate your breathing.
Eat well – You don’t have to skip out on the holiday treats altogether. Just take everything in moderation, and don’t forget to balance it with fruits, vegetables and lots of water. Sugary foods can intensify Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Set realistic expectations – It is neither necessary nor realistic to have the biggest tree, the best presents, the most perfect dinner and the happiest family. Love what you have and the rest will follow.
Take it easy on the eggnog – It tastes good and gives you a warm feeling, but indulging should not reach the point of self-medicating. The hangover will only add to the stress, and no one likes a host who goes face down in the punch bowl.
Volunteer – Time is tight, but there is nothing like helping out for a few hours at a local shelter or food bank to help you appreciate what you have and to make you feel good about yourself.
Order online! Can’t find a parking space at the mall, and tired of fighting the crowds? Hit the search button for instant shopping pleasure. Too late for delivery before Christmas? Start earlier next year!
Delegate! Get the kids off the sofa and away from their screens and engage them in helping you prepare for the season! It could be fun. Or ask a husband, relative, friend or neighbour. Maybe you can help each other out. There is strength in numbers.