Unplug the Christmas Machine: 5 tips for reducing stress this holiday season

Brittany Adams

christmas-frostyChristmas was once magical and exciting, full of warm scents, delicious smells, soft lights, and smiles!
These days, it feels like Christmas is just a machine, turned on promptly after Thanksgiving and kept running full-bore until January 1st.

This change in how we see the Christmas season has led to increased stress, anxiety, depression, weight gain, and unnecessary fatigue.

Undue stressors tox our bodies, causing increased blood pressure and heart rate, increased muscle tension, slowed digestion, impaired clearance of fat cells leading to weight gain (especially abdominal fat), over-production of inflammatory cells, and even a shrinking of the hippocampus, which is the brain’s memory center! No wonder we all feel crazy during the holiday madness.
This type of stress is not healthy and puts us at risk for heart problems, sleep deprivation, digestive disorders, and impairment in memory and concentration.

Feeling drained and HEAVY is not what the season is about. Let’s discuss 5 ways to take the heavy out of your holiday.

1. Avoid overscheduling or abandoning your daily routine

One of the worst things you can do during a seemingly stressful time is to abandon your “normal” and try to squeeze in more holiday than is humanly possible. Do only what you feel comfortable doing. Don’t take on unnecessary projects, be comfortable saying “no,” and delegate assignments for the family party. Take time to exercise, meditate, pray, eat 3 balanced meals, read to your children, and keep your laundry under control. Trying to fit in too many activities outside your normal will lead to stress and anxiety.

2. Throw perfection out the window

Your holiday will not be perfect. That is an unrealistic expectation. It may not be as great as last year. Your party may not be as epic as your neighbors. Your tree may not be a spectacle from the Gods. Your home may not smell of gingerbread cookies the entire month of December. And guess what? That is perfectly okay. Go easy on yourself. Take time to enjoy the little things and realize that you are doing the best you can and that is enough. Turning off social media and keeping Pinterest “pinning” to a minimum will help ease the crutch of comparison. Be yourself and be at peace.

christmas-spending3. Stick to a Budget

The only way to stick to a budget is to make one! Sit down with your partner and decide what you can safely afford this holiday season. Be sure to take into account family parties, gifts, entertaining costs, groceries, and any “extras” you want to make the season festive and memorable. Stay out of debt by only making purchases that are within your means. If you decide to use a credit card, it is best to pay it off, in full, the following month. Also, holiday sales can be enticing, but remember you are still spending money! Try focusing on the amount you are spending instead of the amount you are saving.

4. Put these daily self-care activities to the test

Taking time for daily self-care can decrease both physical and emotional stress. Healthy living habits that you develop and implement can have a huge impact on how you function, and how your mind and body respond to stressful situations. The world doesn’t revolve around your adult children so it’s important you leave some time for you!

christmas-phone5. Set firm guidelines with your children if you suspect drama

If you have children at home, particularly the young adult variety who are likely to resist any social gatherings or are likely to retreat to their rooms during the holiday festivities this year, set a few firm rules early on about what is acceptable behavior and what is not. A good place to start are rules outlining the proper use of smart phones, tablets, PC’s or gaming systems while family or friends are visiting. The clearer you are about what’s ok or not ok  and the faster you communicate those rules to your family about what you expect, the faster you can breathe easy.

Here are just a few suggestions to breathe easier this holiday season:
  • Take a detox bath. Add 1 cup Epsom Salt and 10 drops of your favorite essential oil to a tub of warm water and enjoy the benefits of muscle relaxation and dissolving stress.
  • Turn on your favorite holiday music, light a scented candle, and cuddle up with a soft blanket for a quick nap.
  • Call an old friend, just to catch up.
  • Fix yourself a fresh cup of tea or hot chocolate and unwind.
  • Go for a walk or bike ride. Exercise can decrease anxiety and improve sleep.
  • Immerse yourself in a word search or crossword puzzle
  • Practice mindful breathing or meditation each morning and night
  • Make a fun and healthy meal for your family. Proper nutrition can reduce stress, boost your immune system, and elevate your mood.

As you can see, there are many stress-reducing practices to incorporate this holiday season, leaving you happy, healthy, and ready to ring in a new year!

References:

Managing Stress www.cdc.gov
Stress | University of Maryland Medical Center http://umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/stress

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