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7 Healthy Choices to Reduce Holiday Stress

Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever you celebrate, holiday time is filled with stress.  We all rush around like crazy people, trying to get to get that one last gift or forgotten food item.  Many reach the limits of their emotional endurance well before.  It may not be possible to reduce your stress levels at this time of year, but it is possible to increase your resistance to stress so it won’t take such a heavy toll.  By taking care of yourself in both body and mind you can boost your tolerance to stress, and probably make it to 2017 intact.

Start Early

Are you the type of person who starts holiday shopping in August, or do you wait until the last minute to get it done?  If you are the latter, consider that you are only adding to your stress by waiting until the last minute to finish your holiday tasks.  As the holidays approach, supplies and peoples’ tempers get shorter, and lines get longer.  Avoid all of it with some early planning and preparation.  Buy gifts for people all year long; the financial burden is spread out and you are less likely to forget someone.  Plan menus for holiday meals well in advance so you can deal with any dietary restrictions with ease.  Shop with lists and stick to them religiously.  This will reduce impulse spending and repeat trips to the store.  With a little careful planning, you can avoid the worst of the holiday rush and relax with some hot cocoa instead.

Stay Active

As the weather cools and darkness comes sooner each day, we all find ourselves indoors more, but this is the time of year when it is most important to maintain our physical activity.  If you go to the gym all winter, keep it up and reap the benefits!  If you’re not into the gym, try other things like raking leaves or shoveling snow.  Get a stationary bike to put in front of the TV or try doing yoga in your living room.  It doesn’t matter what you do if you do something.  Since physical activity plays a key role in stress management, remember you can always hit the gym or get outside to work off some tension this holiday season.

Eat Well

This may not always be possible, especially with all the holiday treats hanging around.  This doesn’t mean you must abstain, just be aware of what you are eating.  Try to eat healthy, balanced meals, especially breakfast, so the occasional cookie or slice of pie won’t matter as much.  If you can, attempt to reduce your overall caffeine and sugar intakes as well.  Keep in mind that while they give a temporary boost, the inevitable crash may not be worth it in the end.  Also, since caffeine is a stimulant, it only makes you more tense in the long run.  You may find that if you reduce your caffeine intake you may be more relaxed overall.

Avoid Drugs and Alcohol

The holidays can be an emotional time for a lot of us, and adding drugs or alcohol to the mix can lead to disaster.  If you abstain, keep it up!  The holidays are a bad time to start experimenting for the reason mentioned above.  If you are self-medicating with drugs or alcohol to escape the stress of the holidays, know that the relief is only temporary. Whatever is going on, don’t mask it with substance abuse.  Get help.  Deal with the issue head on and with a clear mind.  If you do drink, do so in moderation.  Not only for your own health and safety, but for that of others as well.

Get Enough Sleep

Getting enough sleep fuels the body and the mind and prepares us for the challenges of the day.  When we don’t get enough sleep, we are tired, unfocused, and at times irrational.  Felling like this only increases your stress levels, so do everything you can to get a good night’s rest.  If you have trouble falling asleep, try creating a soothing bedtime routine.  Listen to soft music, dim the lights, and stay away from screens before bed.  Many people find herbal teas, aromatherapy lotions, or deep breathing helpful.  Remember to take care of yourself and do what you need to do to get enough rest, and you’ll be more prepared to face the season’s challenges.

Be Mindful

Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening in the moment.  Practicing mindfulness can benefit your emotional and physical well-being as well as your relationships, particularly during the holiday season.  You can practice mindfulness with meditation and prayer, which are excellent tools for stress management.  Many turn to prayer in times of stress, and in contemplating our own actions we can gain a greater understanding of how we affect the world around us.  If we try to be mindful while we go about our daily activities, we may be able to catch ourselves before we reach our emotional limits and stop before we have a meltdown.

Be Creative

Creativity and craftiness can save you money during the holidays.  Not only that, but exercising your creative muscles can help relieve stress.  Feeling stressed out?  Making holiday gifts or treats can distract from what is bothering you.  Saving money is no joke either.  We all get stressed when we realize how much we spend during the holidays.  Preempt that by making gifts instead of buying them.  Making an inexpensive treat for someone could please them more because of the effort involved.  Using your creativity could even put you into a meditative-like state. It can focus your mind and push your worries away, even if only temporarily.  You will also get a sense of satisfaction from making something yourself, especially when giving it as a gift.  Crafting something is its own reward, and nothing feels better than making someone happy with a gift you made just for them.

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