By Brittany Thomas
The calendar doesn’t lie and already you may feel the stress starting to build.
The holidays are approaching, bringing with them a flurry of must-accomplish tasks such as baking, shopping, entertaining, traveling and dealing with eccentric family members who arrive ready to renew decades-old arguments.
So how can you endure without all those stress-inducing moments ruining your health and sapping your holiday spirit?
First off, don’t stress about the fact you feel stressed, says Dr. Donna L. Hamilton, author of “Wellness Your Way: The Short and Sweet Guide to Creating Your Custom Plan for a Happier, Healthier Life” (www.wellnessyourwaybook.com).
“Stress is pervasive,” Dr. Hamilton says. “Stress is a fact of life. And stress isn’t even always bad. Some people need a certain amount of stress to function optimally.”
At its core, holiday stress is just like any stress, only with burnt sugar cookies and interminable waits at the retail-checkout line involved.
Dr. Hamilton offers these five tips to help you feel less stressed as you navigate your way through holiday hassles.
• Connect with the spirit of gratitude that marks the season. Research shows that expressing gratitude can help improve mood, increase energy levels, relieve stress and increase motivation, Dr. Hamilton says. So look for reasons to be grateful during the holidays, whether it’s being thankful for good health, a rewarding career, a loving family or some other positive in your life.
• Pause for a moment. Remember to take a few deep, relaxing breaths throughout the day no matter how you are feeling. Even positive emotions like excitement and enthusiasm can create stress in the body, just like typical stress emotions such as anger and frustration do, Dr. Hamilton says. That’s why it’s important to periodically do something that promotes relaxation during active times.
• Make sure you get enough sleep. Your body needs its rest and a lack of sleep makes it more difficult to deal with the stressful situations you might face through the holidays. With parties to attend, travel schedules to plan and gifts to wrap, it’s easy to trim back the amount of time you normally spend sleeping. Be careful not to let that happen, Dr. Hamilton says.
• Take a walk after you eat. This works two ways for you. It helps relax you and is good exercise. “A nice walk is a good way to separate yourself from the pressures you might be feeling,” Dr. Hamilton says.
• Dance and laugh often. They both burn calories and help lift your mood. “We probably can’t do enough of either of these,” Dr. Hamilton says.
Many people feel the need to do something for others during the holiday season, but Dr. Hamilton says it’s important to remember as you bake pies, wrap gifts or hang decorations that you also must pay attention to your own physical and mental needs.
“You can’t give from an empty cup,” Dr. Hamilton says. “Self-care is a necessity, not a luxury.”