The countdown to the holiday season has started, and while most of us look forward to enjoying the festivities, heightened demands and the pressure to “do it all” often bring unwelcome stress.
“Shopping, baking, parties and taking care of your family can throw you into a dizzying whirl of activity that can wreak havoc on your health and emotional well-being,” says Laura Johnson, DO, a family medicine physician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center in Vista. “However, it doesn’t have to be that way this year. Instead of running yourself ragged, take a deep breath, slow down and try these practical tips to minimize stress and enjoy the fun.”
1. Feel free to say no
Don’t overbook yourself. Fitting in family obligations, school holiday events and finding the perfect gifts can seem overwhelming on top of an already busy schedule.
“Look at your to-do list and decide what you “must” do versus “want” to do,” says Dr. Johnson. “Think about crossing off a few items, so you will have some time to rest and recharge.”
2. Spend time with people you care about
Connecting with family and friends is important, and it doesn’t have to be elaborate. Have a potluck get-together with neighbors and watch old movies, or bake holiday treats with the kids.
Consider decorating the Christmas tree with nostalgic ornaments, or eating latkes after lighting the Chanukah menorah. Keeping it simple is easy when you catch up over a cup of your favorite holiday beverage.
3. Make healthy choices
While the holidays are infamous for calorie-laden treats, that doesn’t mean you have to give up altogether on healthy eating.
“By all means, enjoy the tastes of the season, but if you overeat one or two days, make sure you quickly get back into your healthy routine and maintain good eating habits,” says Dr. Johnson.
If you feel you won’t be able to cheat a little, then take a step back from the buffet table and load up on salads with one or two goodies. Remember to drink lots of water and limit alcohol consumption.
4. Stay active
Exercising every day, whether you walk your dog, run on the beach or take a yoga class, will help you stay calm during the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Prolonged physical activity releases endorphins, or brain chemicals that act as natural pain and stress relievers, so your aerobics class is the last thing you should skip.
5. Get enough sleep
Trying to maintain a hectic holiday schedule can make it challenging to get enough sleep, but those necessary hours of shut-eye help you stay alert and have enough energy to enjoy the season.
“Try to manage your expectations of the season,” says Dr. Johnson. “Usually, with some planning and thoughtful scheduling, you can enjoy the holidays with peace and joy.”
If lifestyle changes aren’t helping you, speak with your doctor.