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December 04, 2017

Five ways to keep stress under control this holiday season

Mental Health Holidays

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The holidays bring a special charm to our lives. The time spent with loved ones and the many festive traditions are what make this time of the year so exciting. With so many things to do in just a few weeks’ time, it’s easy to see why the holiday season can become a source of stress for many people. However, with effective stress management that’s focused on what’s most important, everyone can enjoy the holidays. Here’s how:

1. Make a plan

If you will be buying gifts for several people, allocate one or two full days to shop. Make a shopping list, ingredient list for cooking, and set a budget for yourself. If you stick to your plan and budget, you’ll feel in control of both your finances and your well-being.

2. Spend time outdoors

A lack of sunlight during the shorter days of the cold winter months is the cause of stress and depression for many people. Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that’s spurred by the change in seasons, and may disrupt our sleeping habits and moods.

Soak up as much sun as you can during the day by designating time to go outside. Park your car further away than you normally would in order to walk more — this will allow you both sunlight and exercise.

3. Monitor your diet

With much of the holidays focused on delicious meals, it’s not difficult to over-indulge. Unfortunately, both over-eating and the fear of over-eating can cause a ton of stress. But controlling your eating habits is easier than you’d think.

With many options available, be picky. Choose your absolute favorites and ditch the foods that you can live without. Remember, you may not be physically hungry — you may just be reaching for food out of convenience or emotions.

Move or remove candy or dessert bowls from your desk or out of your kitchen, and recognize whether you truly need to eat or not. Another great way to avoid over-indulging is to fuel up on vegetables, fruit, and lean protein before or during a holiday party.

4. Volunteer

Not everyone has a large family or group of friends with whom to celebrate. Although society puts pressure on us to socialize and spread cheer with loved ones, sometimes reaching out to strangers in need can be the most rewarding part of the holidays.

Volunteering at a local food kitchen, for example, could help give you a sense of community, purpose, and joy — particularly if you’ll be alone for the holidays. Helping others has wonderful mental health benefits that will combat stress, and you can enjoy yourself knowing that your actions will improve the holidays not just for yourself, but for many other people as well.

5. Set expectations

Although you may want to be everything to everyone, you can’t set the expectation of being perfect. Some things will go wrong, and that has no correlation to your effort or commitment to showing your friends and family a good time.

Families and traditions change, and although it can be hard to accept, recognizing that the holidays don’t have to reach a certain benchmark, and that they’re different every year, will help you feel calm and ready to accept the uniqueness of each one.

When it comes to winter festivities, each day is not always so bright. Between common stressors, people oftentimes find themselves dreading the holidays as opposed to welcoming them. But when you decide to put yourself first, you’ll find that holiday stress management is not only possible, it can often enhance your enjoyment of the season. 

Try this class: Mindfulness Meditation: Every Thursday at Independence LIVE

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