You'd think that stores were giving away gifts, the way shoppers flock to malls during the holidays. But for most families, gift buying typifies just one holiday activity that can lead to seasonal stress.
Who says it has to be this way? Not me. But it's easy to get worked up over an accumulation of tasks like gift buying and wrapping, writing and mailing cards, baking, and a myriad of other deadlines surrounding the holidays. If the holidays are stressful for you, you're not alone.
"About two weeks into the season, I feel like I'm ready to capsize," says Lynne Neary, Chicago mother of two. "This year I'm determined to get through the holidays with a minimum amount of stress."
According to the American Institute of Stress, more than 110 million Americans take medication for stress related causes each week. When the holidays come along, people already predisposed to stress can find themselves feeling blue and more stressed out than usual.
For those who don't ordinarily feel stressed under the pressure of events or deadlines, the holidays can still play havoc with our lives. So what can we do? Plan for stress, say the experts, just like you plan ahead for any calamity you want to avoid.
The good news is you don't have to let stress ruin your holidays. Try to pinpoint what you're anxious about. Are you feeling stressed because you're not going to be able to fulfill your children's gift requests? Are you and your spouse wrangling over holiday expenses? Are you feeling left out because your friends are enjoying the season and you're not?
Start by considering your attitude. There's no magic bullet, but your attitude can make a difference. Ask yourself: Is your situation a small, medium or large problem? How upset do you want to get over it, and for how long? Look at the possibilities around you, not the restrictions.
Ward off stress with exercise and good nutrition
Lucy Gilles-Khouri, Director of Dean/St. Mary's Healthworks at St. Mary's Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, says, "The holidays can play havoc with our health. In winter we tend to crave fats and sweets, but ironically, the more fat and sugar we eat, the less energy we have, and the more stressed and run down we feel."
Most people are surrounded by holiday sweets and treats. Gilles-Khouri recommends eating in moderation. "Reprogram your thinking. Don't think if some is good, more is better."
Nutrition can play a big part in reducing stress. "When our bodies aren't operating at peak efficiency, we feel stressed, and our immune systems aren't operating at the level they should be," comments Gilles-Khouri. Eat simple, she suggests--an apple instead of a piece of apple pie--for keeping the stress levels down. "Cut back on fat sources, make butter cookies with margarine instead of butter, and don't forget to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day."
When you eat simple foods, Gilles-Khouri says you have a better chance of alleviating holiday stress. "Enjoy the people instead of the food," she advises
Quick Tips for Stress Reduction