7 Ways to Beat Holiday Stress

Wednesday, December 08, 2010 | 0 comments »

By Carla Lord

Shopping. Decorations. Shopping. Family. Shopping. The holiday season is supposed to be a magical time—the most wonderful time of the year. So how is it that many of us tend to wind up feeling tired, drained, and stressed out? You don't have to be among the many who feel this way, though. Let's take a look at how you can spend more time singing holiday carols and less time singing the holiday blues.

A good place to start is to take a look at the usual suspects—the main contributors to holiday stress. Finances top the list, being cited in many reports as the number one stressor for Americans during the holiday season, a time when expenses can often meet or exceed the funds in the bank account. Then, there's shopping . . . the choices, the lines, and the overall mad rush to get something for everyone on your list. And then there's family. Ah, family. Tensions invariably run high during the holidays, when so many individual personalities are often crammed together into one very condensed amount of time. Cooking, cleaning . . . it can seem like the list of things you have to do—and the short time in which you have to do it—is insurmountable. Here are a few things to keep in mind that can lighten the load and give you the feeling that there really is peace on Earth.
  1. Spread good cheer—not beer. The holidays are a time when temptations are everywhere . . . eggnog, cordials, and visions of sugar-powdered desserts dancing in your head. One serving of traditional eggnog has 250 calories, 117 of which are from fat! Holiday bingeing can ruin all the hard work you've put in this year to get fit and stay healthy. Limit how much alcohol you consume (and never drink and drive!); instead of having a second glass of champagne, drink fruit juice or water. Take small portions when you eat your meals, and don't go back for seconds.
  2. 'Tis better to give than receive. A great thing to do whether you're on your own or you're part of a group for the holidays. Remembering that there are people who are less fortunate than we are is not only a great humanitarian deed, but it can also lift your heart and add a kick to your step. While you're shopping, grab an extra something to donate to a food bank or a shelter, or, if you have the time, get involved "hands-on" by volunteering in a food drive. Be a mentor and play Santa to a needy child . . . the list can go on and on. Sometimes, even just a smile or a kind word is all it takes to brighten someone's day.
  3. Jump into the New Year. Exercise! Bet you didn't see that one coming. Even though you may feel busier now than you did at any other point this year, don't slip from your routine. Make time for your workouts—you'll feel good about your own discipline and your body will thank you. You won't have the feeling after the holidays that you need to start over for your New Year's resolution . . . you'll just be continuing the regimen that you've committed to. Plus, keeping a steady workout schedule will make it all the easier to work off those guilty pleasures you've indulged in (come on, we all know there will be at least one). Exercise is also a great stress reliever; you'll feel more at ease just through the workout you're getting. Kick or dance those stressors away while doing Turbo Jam® or Hip Hop Abs®—and stay fit at the same time! It's win-win! And to make sure you don't fall off the wagon, schedule workouts in WOWY SuperGym® to keep yourself accountable.
  4. Leave the masks for Halloween. For many people, this time of year can be quite difficult, and so feeling like you are acting and putting on a fake persona can add to the stress. Don't allow the holiday cheer to bring you down; do allow yourself to listen to your body. Feelings of grief, depression, and loneliness should not be ignored. Check out community events or call friends or family members to get involved in activities. If the blues feel overwhelming or seem to be increasing, don't hesitate to consult a professional—many employers offer EAPs (Employee Assistance Programs) that can give you a good start.
  5. Check your list twice. Although it may be too late for this year, don't wait until "Black Friday" to commence your holiday shopping—start making your plans early. Shopping online can save you the effort of going out on the hunt in myriad stores for your gifts of choice (it's also eco- and wallet-friendly, reduces emissions, and saves you gas money!). And now there's even "Cyber Monday" for the serious online shopper. If you're going to play host to your family and friends this year, start thinking about how you want to arrange your party and how you want to organize the meal, so that you can shop accordingly. Will you do all the cooking, or will your guests contribute to a potluck? Making these decisions early can help you avoid those annoying last trips out to the store.
  6. Don't shop 'til you drop. Instead of giving your loved one a gift, offer to give a donation to a charity in his or her name. Perhaps there's a cause you both feel strongly about, or maybe there's a cause you feel your loved one may really enjoy becoming a part of. You don't have to give away your life savings, but whatever you can do will certainly help. From global warming to malaria to cancer or AIDS, someone can always benefit from your goodwill, and both you and your loved one can feel good that you've done something to make the world a better place. And after all, isn't that the spirit of the season?
  7. Silent night. Get plenty of rest, and try to avoid overdoing it with the caffeine. Your body needs the time to repair. When you take into account all of the health-related problems to which a lack of sleep can contribute—including obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke—it's safe to say it's important to get enough shut-eye. If you find it difficult to "turn off," try doing something relaxing to unwind. Whether it takes reading, herbal tea, listening to music, yoga, or meditation (like in Yoga Booty Ballet®), allowing your body to relax before going to bed can do wonders for your ability to get enough rest. Pleasant dreams, and don't let the reindeer bite.