Holidays are a wonderful time to spend with family and friends, and to be grateful for all the wonderful things and people in our lives. Yet, they can also be stressful, as packed schedules, wild expectations from family, and indulgent eating and drinking can stress out even the calmest of people.
Here are 6 steps to help you manage the added stress from the holidays, and hopefully enjoy peace and mental calm during this busy time of year.
- Don’t over-load your schedule
Typically, there is more going on over the holidays than any other time of the year. Plan your schedule wisely and avoid being over-committed. Focus on family and spend time with people that make you happy. You may need to say no politely to several events that are not a priority.
For some people, shopping can take over a person’s schedule as well as stress their budget and emotional state, especially if you overspend when you can’t afford it. Do not wait until the last minute to complete your shopping for loved ones; get your shopping completed early in the holiday season, set a budget and stick with it so you are not overextended.
- Don’t neglect sleep
No one functions well when sleep deprived, and it is hard to make good choices when you are exhausted.
Keep to your regular sleep routine as much as possible. And if you know that a party or travel are going to deprive you of some sleep, schedule a 30-60-minute power nap sometime during that same day.
Excess caffeine and alcohol make it hard to sleep well, so don’t overdo them.
- Stay active
Exercise boosts your energy and helps you melt away emotional stress. So, don’t skip your work-out routine over the holidays.
Schedule some time to be active, ideally outside with nature. Whether you choose to walk, cycle, dance, snowshoe, or ski, pick something that is fun and that will raise your heart rate too. If the weather doesn’t allow you to be outside, then plan for walking indoors, even a shopping mall will do.
If you end up in a hotel sometime over the holidays, nearly every hotel these days has a basic gym—so schedule time to use it.
- Yes, Celebrate for the holidays, but don’t overdo it
Many people associate the holidays with special foods, especially desserts. You do not have to deprive yourself, but you may need to set some limits. The easiest thing to do is to set a portion size. You may choose to have one small piece, or enjoy 3 fantastic bites and stop, just be sure that you do not go back for second helpings and overdo a good thing.
Make sure to savor and enjoy each bite of your favorite foods. And be sure to eat them at a table with other people you enjoy so that you get to share these foods and memories together. With holiday meals, who you share food with is hopefully more important than what and how much you eat.
Once the holiday is over, toss the extra food that is more of a treat than healthy nourishment. Nobody needs extra portions of cookies, pies, candies, and cakes.
Alcohol is another thing that is often overdone during the holidays, in the name of celebrating. Be sure to drink more water or herbal tea than alcohol, saving alcohol for a special toast and/or to pair with a special dish.
- Don’t forget your supplements over the holidays
B vitamins and magnesium help your body and brain deal with stress. Don’t miss out on them during the holidays.
You get your B vitamins from a good quality multivitamin and or a B-complex preparation. Magnesium is critical for hundreds of cellular reactions, is critical to help you relax and sleep, and needs to be taken separately, preferably at bedtime.
- Schedule time with your favorite people over the holidays.
It is all too easy to get overwhelmed with work parties and extended family over the holidays. If these are the people that make you happy and bring joy to your life, then awesome. But make sure that you have time for the most important people in your life—those who make you laugh and feel loved. Schedule something special and share a hug with the most important people in your life during the holiday season.
I wish you the best of health!
Steven Masley, MD, FAHA, FACN, CNS
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