Medicinenet.com lists factors such as financial obligations, poor eating habits, seasonal affective disorder, busy schedules and unrealistic or unfulfilled expectations as stressors that hit especially hard during the holiday season. While not all of these causes of stress are under your control, by making a few lifestyle changes, you may be able to stave off the worst of the seasonal blues.
1. Go easy on the treats
When holiday stress hits, what do you do to decompress? The APA reported 56 percent of respondents to their survey will eat to reduce stress during the holidays, compared with 38 percent of people during the rest of the year.
“Part of the problem with the food and drink is that these behaviors may happen repeatedly over the season, rather than being limited to a few days a year,” the APA explained. Working to control your snack urges will help reduce the overindulgent guilt and stress that will inevitably follow.
Instead of reaching for a cookie, keep sweet fruits or crunchy vegetables on hand that can curb your hunger without padding your waistline.
2. Limit alcohol consumption
Comfort eating and social drinking go hand in hand during the holidays. Men and women have been found to drink more than usual at the holiday season, which means they are more likely to drink too much, as well as adding more empty calories to their diets.
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to poor decision-making, domestic conflicts with visiting family members and a higher risk of auto accidents, all of which will only add to your already high stress levels.
Some healthy ways to deal with stress that don’t involve alcohol might include drinking nonalcoholic drinks, going for a walk, reading a book and spending time with family members.
3. Just say ‘No’
High on the list of holiday stressors is the idea that there isn’t enough time to get everything done. Between holiday parties, shopping, cooking, cleaning, wrapping presents, decorating and entertaining guests, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the scope of all the seasonal merry-making.
When you can feel things starting to pile up, give yourself permission to say “no” to some of the extra things. Decorate a little bit less, order pizza for your guests and not make an extravagant dinner, clean only what is really necessary, enlist the help of family members for household chores and pick and choose your parties.
The essence of the holidays isn’t how many activities you can get through, it’s the act of letting the joy and happiness of the season get through you.
4. Focus on creating memories
Money is another big stressor at the holidays, so what can you do to overcome the pressure to overspend on presents and decorations and eating out? Focus on making memories. What will be more memorable to you and your family, the pile of gifts under the tree or the time you spend playing and talking and laughing together?
Other ways to save money could include making each other’s gifts, creating and sticking to a strict budget for holiday expenses, getting creative with holiday decor you have on hand, having a Christmas potluck where each family contributes to a big meal.
5. Find your peace
Peace might be hard to come by in the midst of holiday hustle and bustle, which is why you have to be intentional about finding it. Whether you meditate, journal, listen to music or reconnect with nature, taking a moment to reset and find your inner peace can help reduce your stress levels.
The Mayo Clinic suggests using strategies like those involved in meditation. Taking deep breaths, becoming aware of your body and all its sensations, focusing on love and gratitude and prayer are all tools you can use to calm your mind and control your stress.
Prolonged high levels of stress can take a toll on your heart health. To assess your heart and your risk factors for heart disease, make an appointment with a Cardiac Care Group physician. Don’t wait until the holidays are over if you have symptoms of heart disease. The last thing you want is to add another stressor to your holiday plate.