Tips to Manage Holiday Stress

The holidays are my favorite time of year.  I love the cooler days, evenings by the fireplace, warm candlelight dinners, and giving gifts to the people I care about.  But for most people, the holidays can also be an exceptionally stressful time, and if we aren’t careful, we can let that stress steal our joy and damage our health.

Here are just a few tips to help you manage holiday stress and hopefully stay sane through New Year’s Day.

Set a budget – One of the most stressful parts of the holidays is the stress we feel on our bank accounts.  Most American’s overspend on holiday gifts, and are then faced with the post-holiday financial hangover when the bills come due.  The best way to manage this is to set a budget and stick to it.  The gifts that most people value aren’t the most expensive, but rather the most thoughtful.  Besides, can you remember every gift you got last year?  Neither can the people on your list, so don’t sweat it.

Treat traditions as guidelines, not laws – the holidays are supposed to be filled with “want to” and “get to” things, but often time those things turn into “have to” things.  Don’t continue to do things that don’t give you joy just because you always have.  Or, if you really can’t let go, take shortcuts.  Meals can be catered, cookies can be bought instead of baked, and you can hire someone to send your cards for you.

Take care of your health – Unfortunately, when we don’t feel like we have enough time to get everything done, we often neglect our health.  It is important that you continue to exercise regularly, eat (mostly) healthy foods, and get enough sleep, otherwise your stress will get worse.  This might also be the right time to support your fragile immune system by supplementing with zinc lozenges or Lysine tablets.

Consume alcohol and sweets in moderation – alcohol and sweets are integrated into the traditions of the holidays, but they aren’t the best thing for your health and your stress level.  Alcohol causes inflammation throughout the system, and greatly disrupts sleep, which leaves you tired and even more stressed out the next day.  Also, while this should go without saying, if you struggle with alcohol, don’t drink at all.
Sugar is highly addictive, and beyond leading to weight gain, can contribute to many other health issues, including a compromised immune system.  Now isn’t the time to cut out sugar, but remember to practice moderation.

Share your time – When you think about giving gifts, consider giving the gift of your time to someone who could really use it.  Every year my family and I volunteer at a poverty action center to distribute toys to underprivileged families who wouldn’t be able to afford to treat their children otherwise.  It is always an eye opener for all of us, and I think helps us put our own problems into perspective.

Share your feelings – This is the time of year to be generous with hugs, compliments, and affection.  But, this is also the time to ask for help if you need it, and to not carry all of your burdens by yourself.

Give yourself gifts everyday – So often, we focus on the needs of other people during the holidays, and we forget to take care of ourselves.  You should make sure you do something nice for yourself every day.  Light some candles and enjoy a hot bath.  Go for a walk and enjoy the fresh air. Get that extra shot of espresso in your late.  You are important, and you should treat yourself that way.

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