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Managing Stress through the Holiday Season

Thanksgiving is over and we are now full swing into “the holiday season.” Although many people find this to be a jolly and joyous time of the year in which everyone is a bit friendlier (Black Friday shopping excluded) and filled with thoughtfulness for family and friends, many others find it to be a time of additional stress and look forward to the general quiet of the new year. Stress can increase during the holiday season due to a variety of factors.

There is more to do, shopping lists of purchases to be made, halls to deck and trees to trim, family recipes and holiday treats to bake, and seasonal activities to attend. It seems everyone is doing more, so there are more people on the roads and in the stores, creating traffic, road rage, and sometimes fender benders. The majority of our more-to-do also creates more to spend. As the weather turns colder, you may be spending more to heat your home or even on gas if you choose to drive more than walk. Our calendars and checkbooks are two parts of our lives that cause the most distress.

Some experts suggest that our holiday foods may also be partially to blame for the increase in depressive feelings. Holiday favorites are often filled with excessive sugar, cream, butter, and fat. This kind of diet slows us down overall; lethargy and increased sleep are two symptoms of depression. The same goes for an increased intake of alcohol which many include in holiday celebrations.

Some people may be reviewing their previous year and recognizing that they have not achieved as much as they had intended in the last year, while others are reminiscing about “the good old days” and also feeling negative about their current situation. Still others may find family to be events like listening to the Chipmunks sing Christmas Carols.

Add these things to the decreased energy resulting from the seasonal change and it’s easy to feel more like Ebenezer Scrooge than his nephew Fred.

If you want to believe that it’s a wonderful life this holiday season,

  1. Make use of time in holiday traffic and lines to practice deep breathing, helping your body and mind to relax.
  2. Eat and drink in moderation, keeping to healthy foods and portions. If you start to feel down, it is easy to seek out comfort foods or quick fixes from caffeine or sugar. Instead remain focused on your goals and priorities to help you make the healthier choice.
  3. Plan a time for all the extra things you need to do, spreading them out over the next few weeks. You will likely feel less overwhelmed when you are able to chip away a little each day.
  4. If family events cause distress, plan to get together with a friend afterward for support, venting, or just to laugh at the crazy people to whom you are related. Any event is more easily tolerated when you have something to look forward to.
  5. Revel in the beauty of the season. You don’t have to be in the snow to enjoy it. Drive around town and observe the lawn art and Christmas lights. Stimulate your senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste) with pleasant experiences.

December 7th, 2008

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