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Holiday Stress is Inevitable. Here's How to Mitigate it!

December 4, 2018

When it comes to stress, you may already know the negative effects it can have on your health and well-being.  In fact, 60-80% of visits to primary care physicians have a stress-related component. Stressors can include everything from work-related issues, to money worries, to family life, to major life events or changes. 


However, in the months leading up to the holidays, many of us experience additional stress, called "holiday stress".  Here are some steps you can take to ensure that what is supposed to be a fun time spent with family and friends, doesn’t turn into a stressful time for you.


When it comes to gift-giving, it's easy to go overboard. Be prepared with a list, and stick to a budget.  Lot of people experience unnecessary stress due to unrealistic expectations or financial burden they place upon themselves.  Starting your shopping early, sticking to a list AND a budget can help alleviate a lot of the stress. Better yet, spend time together as a family and volunteer, or share an experience together. Making new traditions that don’t cost will pay you back in dividends. Precious time spent with loved ones beats getting a sweater you may or may not like any day.


It is a well-known fact that Americans gain anywhere between 3-7 lbs between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. The temptation and abundant offerings at parties, family gatherings, and while traveling can test the willpower of even the healthiest person.  However, you can plan ahead and beat some of the stress and weight gain that seems inevitable.  You can, for example, stick with your existing workout plan (or start a new tradition for December by walking 5-10,000 steps daily). Drinking lots of water before and during parties can help with filling you up and can even help with the digesting of richer than you’re used to foods. Getting enough sleep can also help.  Sleep, in fact, is a great universal solution when it comes to not only stress and anxiety reduction, but also can help stave off weight gain. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality slumber every night.


For those of us who like to have their finger on the pulse of everything, (yes I'm that way too), my best advice is don’t sweat the small stuff.  Instead of trying to be a perfectionist (which many of us are), try to let go some of the details.


Are all the ornaments hung by the kids but they are in a clump on the tree? Re-arrange or just leave it as is. Feeling like you must prepare a 5 course holiday meal? Let others help you by bringing side dishes instead of spending an entire day in the kitchen. Doing too many things and feeling like you have to have control over every detail can cause extreme stress.  Though it may be hard, try relaxing your standards and be kind to yourself.  Spending time with your loved ones instead, however imperfect it may be, can help relieve some of the stress and create memories instead.


When all else fails and holiday stress is still reeling its ugly head, turn to these tried and true techniques for stress relief. Practice calming activities like yoga and light movement, such as tai chi. If you would like to practice simple yoga at home, a few rounds of Sun Salutations is a great place to start. 


Get a massage– even as short as a 15 minute chair massage or even rolling your foot on a tennis ball can have almost immediate benefits.


Learn to meditate as meditation is an excellent tool to incorporate into your daily routine, especially during times of stress. You don’t have to jump in with both feet.  Start small.  Even a few minutes of meditation can have a great impact on your well-being.  Work up to 20-30 minutes if it suits you. 


Never underestimate the power of simply sitting quietly with your eyes closed.



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