Combating Holiday Stress

How did you feel when you saw your first holiday commercial of the year? For me, it was on Halloween night, and the commercial seemed way too festive for its early airing. But still, it had the same reaction that it does every year. As soon as I see that first commercial, I start thinking about everything I have to do. It’s time to start shopping, cooking, and inviting – all with a “merry” smile and some good old holiday cheer.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the holidays, but preparing for the holidays can be a full-time job. For those of us who already work 40+ hours each week, let’s just say it’s enough to put us over the edge.

But I realized something a few years back that has helped me cope with the stress of the holidays, and I hope it’ll help you too.

Here goes: You are not responsible for Christmas or Hanukkah or Thanksgiving, or any holiday. These are days just like any other, and time is not ours to own. These days will come and go whether or not you enjoy them, so let’s make the most of it.

Let’s have a fun and stress-free holiday season! Here are my best tips for getting things done without pulling your hair out.

1. Don’t take things so seriously. Are you one of those people who tries to recreate the tablescape from the latest Martha Stewart magazine, and then freaks out if it doesn’t go just right? Yeah, I’ve been guilty of that too. You get an idea stuck in your mind, and then without realizing it, you become inflexible.

[Robot voice:] “Everything. Must. Be. Perfect.” Right?

Wrong. And even the thought of perfection at such a busy time is probably the worst kind of torture you can inflict on yourself. Even when we’re not the ones doing the entertaining, we can be guilty of this. So what if your souffle flopped? Stop and ask yourself, is that really an unforgivable offense? Or, can you save the day with a quick batch of chocolate chip cookies?

2. Sleep well. Have you ever noticed that your life gets more difficult when you haven’t been sleeping well? It’s almost as if the universe is out to get you. It’s not bad enough that you can’t sleep, but an avalanche of bad luck always seems to hit you at your most exhausted.

Good news: The world (probably) isn’t out to get you. Even a normal day can seem more stressful when you haven’t had enough sleep. But add the stress of the holidays with a lack of sleep, and your sanity may just be hanging on by a thread. It’s certainly not your fault, but there are a few things you can do to prevent stress-related insomnia.

Try “unplugging” at least an hour before bedtime. Turn off the computer and television. It’s a good time to have a quite chat with your honey. Or, take a bath. Just calm the noise around you, and you may find it easier to drift off to dreamland.

3. Find time for exercise. With so many studies touting the stress-reducing benefits of exercise, it seems silly that we would abandoning it during our most tense times. But that’s exactly what we do. When we’re stressed, it’s often because we feel pressed for time. So, we skip the daily workout and continue with our increasingly stressful days. It’s tempting, but just remember that exercise helps get the blood flowing and the lungs expanding. This releases endorphins, which can produce a euphoric feeling (goodbye stress) and enhance the immune system. If you’re really feeling pressed for time, try a brisk 10 minute walk. Everyone can find 10 minutes, right?

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