Tips for avoiding STRESS this holiday season

You love the season and you often find yourself envisioning that picture perfect holiday.  Everything on the to do list is complete, your home is beautifully decorated, everyone is happy, the gifts you bought were perfect, dinner is a Martha Stewart masterpiece, everyone is asking how you did it all, all of your end of year work priorities have been completed and you look amazing. Then the holiday season starts and the season-induced stress emerges with a vengeance and physically our bodies take a toll.  Colds, flu, headaches, fatigue, inflammation and pain you name it we have all experienced it during the holidays. So how can we avoid or minimize the affects of season-induced stress?

Here are a few tips.

  1. Try to acknowledge your feelings. Allow yourself to be in touch with your feelings and acknowledge its okay to feel flustered when Aunt Martha decides to visit unexpectedly or when a friend does not deliver on that promise to watch your children for a few hours while you go out shopping. Staying in touch with your feelings is really critical. Suppressing your feelings only leads to more intense stress later.shutterstock_162783632
  2. Give yourself permission to say NO!  Partners, children, extended family, friends, bosses and everyone in your life are really good at getting you to do things beyond your limits.  Staying in tune with your feelings and setting expectations will allow you to be more in touch with your own needs and sense of balance.  It is okay to say no I really can’t bake cookies for your event or no I really can’t come over to help you fix your car. Give yourself permission to say no and DON’T feel guilty. It is your life and your holiday season to enjoy too.
  3. Allow yourself some quiet time. Take a walk by yourself even if it is only 15 minutes. Sip a cup of tea on the porch or a quiet place in your home. Take a hot bath or shower. Recharge. Reflect. shutterstock_67156771This quiet time can really help you keep your cool, keep the holidays in perspective and help you remain focused on whats important.
  4. Don’t expect so much.  Nothing has to be perfect. Reflect on the things that gave you joy in previous holiday seasons. You will often find that it was the spontaneous and simple moments that were the most meaningful. Focus your time on creating a joy filled holiday season and forget about perfection. Take short cuts on the things that don’t matter all that much. Do you really need 10,000 lights on your house to compete with the neighbors?  If it does not give you joy don’t do it. Take your kids ice skating instead or head to a coffee shop with a friend. Do you really need to make pies and desserts that would put Martha to shame?  If it does not give you joy buy bakery desserts instead.  shutterstock_123726832Its not selfish for you to focus on the things you enjoy about the holiday season. It is your life and you only have one to live.
  5. Don’t put yourself in financial ruin. Do not buy anything you do not have money for today.  People sometimes spend a whole year just trying to pay off holiday spending from the year before. Set a budget. Talk to your family and set expectations and stick to it. Your children will survive if they do not get that Star Wars drone toy this holiday season.  shutterstock_220589746Don’t expect to buy their happiness.
  6. Keep shopping simple and gifts personal. Consider gifts that may create a memorable event (theater tickets, a concert, a day of golf or an outing). These are terrific and you can purchase them online no lines required. Consider gifts that speak to someones bucket list desires. If you have someone that desires to see all the National Parks maybe purchase a passport book or a guide book with the closest parks to their home labelled.  If someone is starting a more natural healthy lifestyle find special gifts that are consistent with their values.  You may find that you will actually spend less time, less money and enjoy the gifting process more fully.
  7. Avoid the shopping chaos. Shop online and avoid traffic, lines, and grumpy store clerks and shoppers. shutterstock_192063296If you find joy in the experience of the physical hunt maybe try a lower key approach than the big box stores by shopping at small businesses and enjoy the coffee shops and cafes along the way.
  8. Don’t throw in the towel on healthy habits.  You are the first person you sacrifice when intensive demands are placed on you. Commit to take care of yourself this season. Keep things simple so you can keep up your exercise routine.  Keep healthful snacks with you for times when you are stuck hungry and without many options. Protein bars, nuts and fruit can hold you over until you can get a healthy meal.  Make sleep a priority.  It can be so easy at the end of a long day to feel like you need to veg in front of the television before heading in to bed.  Before you know it you have wasted away precious sleep time.  Try to find other ways to unwind.  A short walk, listening to music, reading a book or magazine, sipping on some tea can all be options for quieting the mind and preparing for nourishing sleep. Changes in diet and routine through heavy eating and alcohol consumption can be a dangerous combination.  shutterstock_166469852Moderation is really the key to enjoying the holiday and taking care of yourself.   Research suggests that there is a significant and real physical toll that can emerge during the holidays.  Data demonstrates there is a much higher risk of death from coronary events and heart attack during the holiday season than any other time of the year.[1][2] Take care of yourself and seek treatment if illness does strike.
  9. Find tools to help you cope.  When you need to settle yourself it may be a good time to experiment with essential oils if you have not done so already.  Inhaling calming essential oil blends can quiet the mind and bring about a more peaceful state.  Certain herbs can also have anxiety relaxation properties.  Passionflower, skull cap, chamomile, lavender and holy basil are a few wonderful relaxing herbs that are great in teas or in herbal supplements. Experiment with making your own blends or purchase ready made tea blends. Essential vitamins including B-Complex and magnesium and adaptogenic herbs can also be helpful during stressful periods for proper functioning of the nervous system and increased physical well being.  It is always a good idea to consult with your physician prior to use.
  10. Give up the feud. Accepting family and friends as they are can often be a challenge through the holiday season. Somehow the holidays can bring out the absolute worst in people. Maybe others around you are also suffering with season-induced stress. Try to set aside past grievances until after the holiday season.  When difficult situations arise take some deep breaths and give yourself some space.shutterstock_121428730

Overall, the holidays can be a beautiful, rich and joyful part of the year. The most important ways to keep your season-induced stress in check is to listen to and acknowledge your thoughts and feelings, take care of you, simplify expectations and desires and most of all focus on what is most important and joyful to you.

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