The holiday season conjures up images of Christmas carols, holiday baking, brightly lit trees covered in tinsel and colorful gifts wrapped in bows, piled under a tree, according to Karen Goshe with Firelands Regional Medical Center.
We picture hand-written holiday notes filled with messages of joy, and jingles bells tinkling as we meander down snow covered streets.
In reality, the stresses of shopping, wrapping, mailing and baking affects our already tightening pocketbooks, as well as our time constraints.
Stress can happen to any one of us at any time, but the holidays can take an undue affect, if we do not find ways to set limits and take care of ourselves.
The American Institute of Stress identifies stress and stress-related illnesses as American’s number one health problem.
Stress can result in headaches, muscle aches, and decreased interest in activities.
It can affect your social interactions, your job performance and your daily functioning.
Untreated stress can affect you physiologically including your heart, as well as your autoimmune system.
If you are already affected by stress, anxiety or depression, you may find the holiday season to be even more taxing, and far less enjoyable than one would expect.
As for everyone else, adding holiday time to an already over-burdened schedule can result in stress related symptoms.
The good news, however, is that there are easy steps we can all take to divert these stressors, and actually learn to enjoy the holiday season.
How to survive the “Ho Ho Ho Hums”
1. Put it all in perspective. Christmas is not about how much we spend, but with whom we spend the holidays. Before overburdening yourself financially, set a budget, consider what gifts/activities fit best within that budget, and make a plan to remain within that budget. Increase family holiday fun by playing a game together (like a candy cane hunt) or building a snowman as a family “gift” on Christmas Day. Remember, your family will remember the time they spent with you, far more than they will remember the Christmas gift they received.
2. Look for the joy. Give yourself a gift by seeking out at least five things that happen each day to make you smile. A positive attitude goes a long way towards enjoying the holidays.
3. Although all of the delectable holiday treats are enticing, a healthy body handles stress better. Make sure you are taking time each day for healthy foods, exercise, and plenty of water (it is also best to limit caffeinated beverages).
4. Relax. Take deep breaths, stretch your muscles, and allow yourself moments of peace through out each day. When you take time for yourself, it is easier to give time to others over the holiday season.
5. Sleep. A well rested body can tolerate daily stresses better than one on a limited amount of sleep. Do your best to get at least eight hours of sleep each evening (and not just during the holiday season!)
6. Laugh. We have all heard that laughter is the best medicine, but a good belly laugh can go a long way in inducing a feeling of happiness and relaxation. Take time to play, watch a funny holiday movie, sing carols with your children, decorate your cookies with silly patterns, leave cookies out for Santa, or throw bread crumbs outside for the reindeer. Do something each day that will make you smile.
Remember the holidays are meant to be enjoyed. Begin each day with a plan to find joy in that day and you are one step closer to a less stressful holiday season.