With long to-do lists, upcoming family gatherings and, for some, reminders of lost loved ones, it’s no wonder the holiday season is referred to as “hustle and bustle.” We’re also bombarded with messages telling us that this is supposed to be a joyous season, full of love, laughter and light. But what do we do when the stress or sadness creeps in? The key is to plan ahead.
These tips can help you tailor a game plan for making your holiday season the best it can be.
• Stick to a set budget. Lack of money is one of the most frequent causes of stress during the holidays. Parents, it is okay to tell your child that a specific toy costs too much.
• Stay organized. Using an appointment book or list will help keep you on track for the tasks required and the events to attend.
• Share the load. Delegate certain tasks or use the time to spend with family while sharing tasks like cooking, wrapping gifts and decorating.
• Set boundaries. Do not overbook yourself. It is okay to decline events that are not important to you; this leaves time for you to attend the events most meaningful to you.
• Be realistic. There is no such thing as the perfect holiday. Family problems do not disappear just because it is a holiday. Plan ahead for situations, and consider taking alcohol, which is a depressant, out of the celebration. Focus on traditions that make holidays special for you and your loved ones.
Planning in advance can help during the holidays:
• Take some time to nurture yourself away from group activities. Meditate, practice relaxation breathing or go for a short walk.
• Take care of yourself by getting enough sleep and sticking to an exercise schedule or finding ways to become more active. Make sure you are eating healthy foods. It is okay to eat something special; just have a small portion. Eat a healthy snack before a party, and choose to eat less at the event.
• Give yourself a nonfood reward(like a new item of clothing, music download or reading time) for if you follow through with your healthy lifestyle plan during the holidays.
• Holidays can trigger depression for those who may be dealing with the loss of a loved one or a relationship that has ended. Get support if you need it; most people need treatment to get better.
After the holidays:
• To boost your chance of keeping your New Year’s resolution, lay out realistic steps for the months ahead. For example, instead of joining a gym, start a vigorous walking program first. It’s free, and you can do it anywhere. If you have a busy schedule, three 10-minute brisk walks offer the same cardio benefits as one 30-minute brisk walk. Break new goals into smaller, manageable pieces. Brisk walking not only reduces stress but also can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as much as running.
Kathleen Price is a registered nurse at the Florida Blue Center in Sarasota at UTC where she teaches free health and wellness classes that are open to the public in addition to providing health coaching and assessments.