By Danielle Miller, GalTime.com
Avoid the Holiday StressThe phrase Happy Holidays is one many people are used to saying and hearing frequently around this time every year. It goes without saying that the holiday season brings many people a lot of happiness and comfort.
Seeing family and friends, decorating the house, throwing and attending holiday gatherings - these are things many of us look forward to all year. Unfortunately, the reality is that the holidays can also stress us out (sometimes to an extreme degree!).
The holidays themselves are events we look forward to, but often times they are attached to rituals and traditions that can really exacerbate the feeling of stress, which can potentially be detrimental to our health. "I think a big part of the stress around the holidays has to do with adding even more onto our already overstretched calendars," suggests Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., and author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness . "Now, in addition to the gazillion of 'normal' things on our to-do list (taking care of the kids, work, house…), there is added pressure to go shopping, clean the house, cook…"
Take, for example, a very popular tradition: the holiday party. This is a feat many people will attempt during their lifetimes. It is a chance to invite family and friends into your home, catch up, celebrate, exchange gifts, and enjoy a plethora of food and drink. The party itself is the enjoyable end result of careful planning, lots of purchases, and probably a fair amount of STRESS.
Lombardo identifies some the major health issues associated with holiday stress as weight gain, a weakening of the immune system (just in time for flu season!), a worsening of pain (such as headaches or muscle tension), and insomnia. She offers a plan of attack for still pulling off that holiday party without a breakdown in the process:
1. Accept (and ask for) help: When someone asks "What can I bring?", actually give them an assignment. People love to help, and them making one dish is not a strain on them at all. If no one actually asks, you can assign certain tasks. For example, tell your guests you want to have a cookie share, so you want everyone to bring 2 dozen cookies. Then dessert is all taken care of and you can focus on other tasks.
Related: Skip the Stress: 5 Worries Every Parent Can Forget About
2. Focus on the reason not on perfection: The holidays are a time to appreciate what you have in life, including your loved ones. Focus on spending quality time with them rather than making the perfect 10 course meal. Not only will you benefit from this, but so will your guests. Adopting a mantra such as "The purpose of the holidays is to enjoy being together" or something like that can be helpful.
3. Make sure you address your needs: Get the sleep, nutrition, exercise and fun you need to be able to function optimally. Have a set bedtime for yourself the week before to ensure you are getting enough rest. Play music you enjoy while you are preparing for your guests. Or have a friend over to assist you.
Related: Decoding 5 Common Stress Dreams for Women
While throwing a party is definitely one of the main stressors of the holiday season, gift-giving is another major culprit. Those television and print advertisements for Toys, Toys, Toys! usually start inundating TVs and mailboxes in early fall and just keep on coming through December. Lombardo warns against making assumptions regarding what your loved ones may expect from you. "It is important for women to really look at WHY they are doing what they are doing that may lead to stress and determine if it is worth it. Many people make automatic assumptions such as, 'I need to make more money so my children will be happy with getting more gifts' or, 'I should have that holiday party because we always do.' These, however, may not be completely valid," she advises.
There are many ways to get stressed out during the holiday season but there are also many methods that can be used to de-stress and put things back into perspective. If you notice yourself really succumbing to holiday stress, it may be a good idea to detect the actual source and determine how much it is impacting your day-to-day life. "It is all about weighing the pros and cons. For example, if working a few extra hours leads to a moderate amount of stress but you see the benefits of having more money as being very strong, then that may be a good option for you," suggests Lombardo.
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