Tips for relieving holiday stress

penny sitler

Are the holidays stressing you out?

There are lots of reasons for the stress, often self-imposed. It’s unrealistic to think we can completely eliminate stress in our lives, but here are some suggestions to minimize its effects.

Don’t pressure yourself to make everything perfect. Getting organized is step one toward giving yourself a break. Carry a list of the people you need gifts for in your wallet, including what’s already bought, to eliminate overbuying for any one person and exceeding the budget. List tasks from most important to least, and concentrate on the highest priority items first. Ask for help with holiday preparations. Part of the holiday joy is being together. Having a friend or family member help will turn what feels like work into a fun time that will become a cherished memory.

Many of us need to incorporate “no” into our vocabularies – it’s okay to say no if you don’t have time to get something done. Take control of your schedule and avoid overdoing it. Everyone is in the same situation and they’ll understand if you have to miss one cookie exchange.

The holidays can cost a lot but they don’t have to. If you don’t have money to spare, enjoy free activities. Having a grandchild spend time with a grandparent sharing in the beauty of the season can be a treasured gift that costs nothing more than a few hours of their time. Tour the neighborhood’s holiday lighting displays, bundle up and take a walk in the snow or go sledding. People often can’t remember which gift you gave them last year, but they will remember time spent together building memories.

Those of us who live in central Ohio experience about 180 gray days each year and we all need a little sunshine in our lives to keep up our spirits. Put brighter than usual light bulbs in a lamp and sit near it to simulate sunshine. If you feel cooped up during the winter, even if it’s cold outside and snow is on the ground, put on some warm boots and get outside for a walk every day. Exercise will help you feel more energetic, sunlight and exercise are great mood lifters, and there’s nothing prettier than a fresh snowfall. If sidewalks are too treacherous, head to the local mall and walk the corridors while enjoying the sights and sounds of the season.

If you feel isolated or sad during the holidays, join in activities that are happening in the community. Ask a neighbor or friend if they need help with gift wrapping or clearing a walkway. If you know someone else who is alone during this time, invite that person to a meal or other gathering. Volunteering at an agency or church in your community is a great way to lift your spirits. If you need help providing food for your family or yourself, there are opportunities to eat a meal at area churches and food pantries are well stocked for the winter.

Give yourself a time out if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the swirl of activities. Fit in some quiet time each day. Take five deep breaths while gazing out the window for a quick relaxation technique. Reading, listening to music or enjoying a hobby like knitting or writing in a journal will provide much needed peace during a hectic season.

To make the most of the holidays, be sure to eat well, making it a priority to eat five or more fruits or vegetables a day. Get plenty of rest and exercise to make you less vulnerable to stress. Take time to enjoy the beauty of the season. Remember to be flexible and have fun.

Penny Sitler is Executive Director of Mental Health America of Licking County.

Found in The Newark Advocate December 24, 2016

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