Now that the holiday season is upon us, it is important to be aware that stress during this time of the year is very real. It is up there with divorce, moving and changing jobs. Many people can get stressed at the mere thought of the demands the season might place upon them. Stress at any time can stop you in your tracks and it may be very hard to identify the cause when it is affecting you. Often you don’t have the time to worry about why you have extra muscle aches, back pain, headaches or difficulty sleeping. In this way, stress is even more dangerous because you focus just on managing the symptoms instead of what is troubling you.
Stress comes when you allow a situation or problem to fester, when you worry about things out of your control and when you bottle up emotions instead of expressing them, either in healthy releases or by reaching out to others. Rarely do two people handle stress in the same way and rarely does the same situation cause the same sort of stress for two people. Although some of the symptoms of stress may be temporary, not dealing with it can lead to larger problems with your health and well-being.
If you’re feeling anxious, sick or on a treadmill that you can’t get off this holiday season, take a step back and think about what’s happening in your life. Oftentimes you can feel that a situation requires all of your attention and worry until it is resolved. You then commit yourself to seeing it through, no matter how many missed meals, fewer hours of sleep or days of rest and relaxation you lose over it. Unless a situation is truly life and death, taking a step back allows you to put the situation in perceptive and see potential solutions. During this holiday season, find peace and joy by focusing on the present and not on worrying about the future or fretting about the past. Make clear decisions about how you’d like to spend this festive time. Often trying to “fit it all in” can be overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to politely RSVP that you are not able to commit or make plans to get together in the new year.
Perhaps the most important way to manage stress at this time of the year is to take care of yourself and find healthy outlets for the built-up tension and emotion. This means sleeping a consistent number of hours, making as many healthy food choices as you can and finding time to exercise, even when it seems like doing so will eat up your precious time. If you usually workout for an hour, plan for 20 to 30 minutes. It’ll still be worth it since any physical activity not only boosts your energy level but can improve your mood. Staying active can also include taking the stairs in the shopping mall vs the escalator, going for a walk after dinner or parking further away from the mall entrance. Every little bit of movement matters. The holiday season is also very much about food and it’s easy to be tempted with sugary and empty-calorie “treats/drinks”. Try not to over-indulge, have smaller portions of your favourites, eat slowly and drink lots of water. Before heading to a party, have a healthy snack since skipping a meal or arriving hungry could set you up to make poor food choices.
Once again, it’s time for festivities and feasting but be mindful of the decisions you make and the demands you place upon yourself and others. Know that it is okay to say no. Remember it’s also a time to be merry and a time to be with family and/or friends.
Hal & Joanne