7 Tips to Enjoy the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Do you hear what I hear?  Chestnuts roasting on an open fire?  Better deck the halls before you rock around the tree!  After all, ‘tis the season to be jolly.

But what about the days you feel more like hanging up your silver bells rather than go on a sleigh ride?  Maybe you, or a loved one, won’t be home this year.  It could be that the baby had anything but a silent night.  Perhaps you have 20 gatherings to fit into 12 days and your home is beginning to look more like a shipping center than a wonderland?

It doesn’t matter who’s coming to town, sometimes holly and jolly are the last 2 words you would use to describe your mood.  What about those days?

We are bombarded by messages that we should be happy during this season of festive parties, gifts, and decorations to the Nth degree.  And yet, it’s those very tasks and events that can lead to stress.

According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, while work and money are leading stressors during most of the year, during the winter there is a shift.

Surveys respondents ranked the following primary holiday stressors:

    1. Lack of time
    2. Lack of money
    3. Commercialism/Hype
    4. Giving/Getting Gifts
    5. Staying on a diet

 

While it may seem inescapable, here are 7 tips to help you have a happy and healthy holiday season.

BE REALISTIC

Set budgets and boundaries for yourself.  If funds are tight, think outside the box.  Share your talents!  From babysitting and cooking to auto repair and handyman tasks, we all need a little help now and then.  You could also suggest a get together like a pot luck meal and game night in lieu of gifts.

There are 24 hours in a day.  A person can only be in 1 place at a time.  These are 2 things we cannot change.  Keep them in mind when scheduling activities and obligations.  Take out time for work, sleep, self-care and family time.  Then see what’s left before committing to something.  Pick and choose what is reasonable for you and your family.

CONNECT WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY

Despite the constant slate of parties and gatherings, loneliness is still an issue for many.  Join with a friend or family member for shopping, cooking or other holiday activities.  Divide the work and share some laughs along the way.  If memories are painful, try new things to start new traditions.  Community centers, churches and civic groups often have activities open to area residents.

If distance separates you from loved ones, modern technology has many options to help you connect.  Between video chat apps and interactive games and websites, there are a number of ways to not only hear, but also see the ones you love.  Those who have lost a loved one in the last year can be especially susceptible to loneliness.  Reach out and include them in your plans.

TAKE A BREAK

Establish a self-care routine, even if it’s only 15 minutes.  Choose a time of day that is good for you.  During this time, don’t think of the things on your to do list.  In addition to those few minutes of down time, keep your bedtime as a priority.  Sleep is vitally important to the body for both physical, mental and emotional health.

DON’T FORGET TO SMILE

Try to not allow yourself be consumed with what’s next.  Instead, stop and focus on what’s happening now.  Metta Karuna McGarvey, Ed.D.’10, a visiting fellow at Harvard Graduate School of Education and an expert on mindfulness as a catalyst of adult social and emotional development encourages people to look at the more humorous parts of life.  She suggests: “Watch a funny movie, hang out with friends, look for opportunities to have a little fun every day…Laughter lowers the stress hormone cortisol and releases endorphins. Just take a minute or two a couple of times each day to think of something that makes you smile.”

FEED YOUR BODY

Keep proper nutrition in mind to feel your best and avoid illness.  Depending on your specific eating habits, you may benefit from supplements to help ensure you are getting all the vitamins and minerals you need.  Additionally, some, can help you fight off stress.  According to Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, nutrition, diet and health expert and author of The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health, magnesium can help you relax, zinc can help boost your immunity and omega-3 oils are effective anti-inflammatories.

KEEP MOVING

In the midst of all the other things on your to do list, one thing that should NOT be dropped is time for exercise.  When a person is excitable from stress, the burst of energy that you get from exercise can help burn the adrenaline off and calm you down,” said Erica Christ, RD, CDE, an exercise physiologist at Greenwich Hospital’s Weight Loss & Diabetes Center.  There’s more.  Exercise gives you time to process things in your mind.  As an added bonus, it triggers your body to produce the neurotransmitter dopamine, which has been associated with mood improvement post-exercise mood improvement post-excise.  In fact, it can work as well or even better than antidepressant medications.

BE AWARE

When we are stressed, we are more likely to feel sadness, loss of interest in activities, changes in eating and sleep patterns.  For most, these feelings are fleeting and resolve fairly easily.  However, for a small portion of the population, (approx. 5% of adults in the US according to the American Psychiatric Association),  this can be signs of a type of depression known as Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.  For these individuals, the feelings can become debilitating and in some cases, this can result in thoughts of death or suicide.  Anyone who suspects a loved one is suffering with SAD, should contact a health care provider immediately to seek help.  Treatment is available.  If you feel the depression is severe or if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, consult a doctor immediately or seek help at the closest emergency room.  You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800-273-TALK (8255) or 9-1-1.

This holiday season, take stock of which functions are necessary or enjoyable as well as the preparation involved.  Make a plan with your family to keep things manageable and enjoy the most wonderful time of the year!

 

REFERENCES:

Grainger, Charlotte  Holiday blues: How to navigate the most stressful time of the year  https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/mentalhealth/holiday-blues-how-to-navigate-the-most-stressful-time-of-the-year/ss-BBWHl78#image=15    accessed 11/21/19

McMorris, Megan   9 Things About Getting Through the Holidays Only People with Anxiety Understand https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/mentalhealth/9-things-about-getting-through-the-holidays-only-people-with-anxiety-understand/ar-BBWtcSn   accessed 11/21/19

Babakhan, Jen  29 Simple Habits That Relieve Holiday Stress and Anxiety  https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/mentalhealth/29-simple-habits-that-relieve-holiday-stress-and-anxiety/ss-AAJuRFQ   accessed 11/21/19

Greenberg Research – Holiday Stress memo  https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2006/12/holiday-stress.pdf      accessed 11/21/19

American Psychiatric Association (APA) –  Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Physician Review By: Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.  https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/seasonal-affective-disorder    accessed 11/21/19

Harvard Health News 7 Steps to Manage Holiday Stress  https://green.harvard.edu/tools-resources/how/7-simple-steps-manage-holiday-stress   accessed 11/22/19

Greenwich Hospital. “Activity tames holiday stress and triggers a chemical response to help you relax.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 November 2012.   <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121120152317.htm>.