Hanukkah began yesterday at sundown. Christmas, Kwanzaa and Boxing Day are three weeks away. The holiday crunch is on us: time for a refresher in slowing it down, regaining our focus and getting re-grounded.
- Quit trying to find the "perfect" gift. The teenagers in my life are all getting gift cards from a retail store. Teens like those almost as much as money. Your picky mother-in-law won't appreciate the time you took to select her gift - and she still won't like it. So don't stress about it.
- Avoid high-traffic times if possible. Drivers are terribly distracted this time of year. Add that to inclement weather and you have an accident waiting to happen. Stay out of stores at peak times. I call it "shopping psychosis," that look that comes over people as they block store-aisle traffic with their carts. Stay home and order holiday items and gifts online; you still have time.
- You do not have to entertain this season. Give yourself permission to NOT have people over for parties, etc. Unless you can afford to cater the event, have a cleaning service and/or it's already in the works - just don't do it. And not worrying about the mess can be very healthy.
- Watch your breathing. Most of us don't breathe enough normally; we take shallow breaths and deprive ourselves of oxygen. Add stress to that and we can even become light-headed. Sit in a quiet place, close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths. Inhale slowly and exhale more slowly. You'll be amazed at how relaxed you will feel!
- Get enough rest. I have patients tell me that they only sleep 4-5 hours a night. Most research would say they are sleep-deprived. Cut out some TV or computer time at night and get some sleep. And naps are not just for cats. Try one or two...
- Make sure you have some quiet, alone time scheduled. The social demands of holiday seasons are high. We are required to interact more with family, co-workers, etc. That can be very tiring, especially if socializing causes you anxiety. Factor in some down-time.
- Watch alcohol and food intake. I am not setting a good example by sharing my potato-chip mini-binge above. Spiked eggnog, wine, drinks and high-fat, high-caloric food abound this time of year. Denying yourself any treats this season isn't necessary. But try to eat healthy foods, too.
- Plan one fun event just for you. You probably spend much time and effort insuring others are taken care of and entertained this season. Remember to treat yourself - get a manicure, go to a heated driving range, babysit a friend's new puppy or read that new best-seller you've been hoarding.
- Watch a favorite holiday movie or show. In an earlier post, I mentioned the film Home for the Holidays. It's great if you want to laugh at family dysfunction. But I'm talking about a sentimental favorite. It's corny and dated, but I love Holiday Inn. Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas" does it for me.
- Get some exercise. Most usual exercise routines get abandoned this time of year. We are full of excuses. But exercise is a terrific stress-buster. Take a walk in the snow with your kids or dogs.
Holiday Stress-Reduction Tips - Listen to the Real Experts
Set Realistic Expectations for the Holidays
Strategies for Surviving the Holidays - H.A.L.T.