Beating The Holiday Stress

December 16, 2010

By Dr. Carolyn Anderson

Beating the Holiday Stress
Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. A time to spend with family and friends and a time to celebrate all that is good and wonderful in our lives. Even though this is such a great time of year if we are not careful the holidays can also be a stressful time. After battling the crowds at the mall while trying to pick out the perfect gifts you have endless parties to attend. The happiest time of the year can turn into an overscheduled race to fulfill all your obligations.

Over time this holiday-induced stress and long-term stress can have a negative impact on overall health and wellbeing.  Stress can disturb your sleep, stomach and immune system and contribute to a host of other health related problems both chronic and acute.

The last thing you need interfering with your holiday plans is a cold or flu so take the following steps to lower your stress level.

Remember the real reason to celebrate
The holidays aren’t about gifts but about spending time with your loved ones. Spending time with your family and friends will help you slow down and destress. Don’t stress out about having a perfectly spotless house or professionally decorated tree. Your family and friends won’t remember what your house looked like but they will cherish the memories you create together.

Think about volunteering at a soup kitchen or purchasing a gift or food for a family in need. Reminding yourself of the less fortunate can help you put your own problems in perspective.

Focus on the important things
You don’t have to attend every event you are invited to. Decide which events are the most important to you and decline the rest. Make your gift giving easier by buying less gifts or give generic gifts that everyone appreciates like chocolate or movie tickets.

Plan ahead
Make lists of the things you need to buy, make or organize well before Christmas. Plan out your approach to getting everything done. Don’t leave things to the last minute. You may discover that you don’t have enough batteries, wrapping paper or stuffing at the last minute and not be able to find a store open on Christmas Eve.

Delegate
There’s no reason your spouse can’t help you out with the Christmas shopping. Ask your adult children to bring along a side dish to the Christmas dinner. If you usually procrastinate on wrapping your gifts take them to a wrapping center at a local mall. Most of the time the profits are donated to a local charity.

Decrease Financial Stress
Part of the stress of Christmas arises from the financial cost. If this is true in your case take a look at your budget and plan out what you can afford to spend on gifts and limit yourself to that. Your family should be understanding and not want you to go into debt to buy their gifts. You can also make inexpensive gifts like baking, soup mixes, framed pictures or coupons for services like babysitting or driving. Many people truly appreciate the thought and effort that goes into homemade gifts.

Keep up with your exercise routine
Even though December is a busy month you should still continue your exercise routine or even start one. Even if you only have 15 or 20 minutes make sure you move your body.  Exercise releases endorphins which help you feel better. Besides the physical benefits of exercise also take your mind off of all the things that need to be accomplished during this busy season.

Try and make healthy food choices
This special season always brings many opportunities to eat treats and fatty foods. Part of the joy of the season is the wonderful culinary options. Make sure you don’t completely pass on the vegetable platter and the mandarin oranges. Making sure we still eat some good nutrient rich anti-oxidant foods such as broccoli and brussel sprouts will help decrease the chance of contracting an illness and provide much greater energy and vitality.

Other methods of stress reduction
Find an activity that releases your stress. Yoga is a popular option but a simple walk can work just as well for some people. Try spending some time in silence or meditation. You can also lose yourself in a good book or you may want to journal your thoughts and frustration. Take some time for yourself.

Have a wonderful stress-free holiday!

About the Author: Dr. Carolyn Anderson is an eye surgeon who founded Impowerage to raise money for macular degeneration research. She practices cataract surgery in Langley, BC and is also a professional speaker. Her mission in life is to empower older adults with the information they need to continue living healthy active lifestyles.

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