The holidays bring a time to celebrate and get together with family and friends, but for many people, it can also come with a lot of stress. Social engagements, gift-buying and a seemingly endless amount of to-do’s can bring unwanted emotions that make it hard to enjoy the season.
To keep your holiday spirits bright, it’s important to maintain a positive perspective and be aware of your feelings. The healthy lifestyle experts at the Mayo Clinic offer six simple strategies for reducing holiday stress so you can feel your best well into the new year.
Embrace the true spirit of the holidays by finding ways to give back. By sharing your time and talents with others, you’ll get more out of the experience, and likely find some satisfaction and peace of mind in the process.
“Work at a soup kitchen, organize a gift drive, read to a child or help your neighbor with something,” suggests Sara Carlson, certified diabetes educator in the Department of Endocrinology at Mayo Clinic. “Reaching out to others makes us feel good about ourselves and reminds us that we aren’t alone in facing challenges.”
Cookies, casseroles, cakes and cocoa – the holidays are ripe with temptation. Eating too many unhealthy foods can leave you feeling unwell both physically and emotionally. Indulge, but do so in moderation. A few strategies to help:
- Have one holiday drink and then switch to water.
- Fill your plate with fresh veggies from the appetizer platter.
- Skip the sauces; they are often heavy in salt, fat and calories.
- Bring a healthy dish to share with everyone.
- Avoid fasting; maintain a regular eating schedule.
It’s difficult to decline an invitation or request for a favor during the holiday season. However, if you overload your schedule, your stress levels are bound to increase. A polite “no” when you’re feeling overloaded can be a lifesaver.
“We need to protect our spirit, knowing when to draw a line in the sand and say, ‘Thank you for the opportunity, but I will not be able to participate,’” says Dr. Edward Creagan of the Mayo Clinic. “If we give and give, there is nothing left to give.”
No family is perfect and the holidays are sometimes reminders of this. Attempting to create the perfect holiday is impossible. Accept that things will go wrong, but learn to let go and forgive others, as well as yourself.
“Be realistic,” Dr. Creagan says. “If individuals have locked horns for most of the year, it is not reasonable to think that on one day all will be forgiven. We need to be gentle with ourselves. We need to forgive ourselves.”
With so many things to cross off the list, it’s easy to forget time to actually have fun during the holidays. So make sure to block off time on your schedule for favorite traditions.
“Take time to do things you find relaxing or fun,” says Carlson. “Watch your favorite comedy, take an evening drive to look at holiday lights or curl up with a good book.”
Stress can make it difficult to sleep, yet when you don’t get enough sleep you can feel more anxious. To help your body get the rest it needs, try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule that allows for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
During the day, make space for relaxation as well so you don’t get overloaded. Take a gentle yoga class or practice meditation for 20 minutes. This can help bring a sense of peace and calm in an otherwise hectic day. If you have trouble meditating, consider online guided meditation or research audio options at your local library.
For more easy ideas on managing stress and staying well through the holidays and beyond, visit www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle.