Holiday Pressure

by Alexis Solberg, Public Allies AmeriCorps Member, Casa Grande Alliance

Ah, the most wonderful time of the year! Or should I say the most stressful? Some people can live merrily off candy canes and hot chocolate, but for others, it’s too much to handle.
So how exactly should you go about your holiday-related stress? Here are seven ways you can do just that, according to Wellness Coach Elizabeth Scott, MS at Verywell; Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen at Healthy Living; and Jessica Maharaj at the National Alliance on Medical Illness.

Be sure to laugh — Kids pick up their parents’ stress and tension, so they’re more likely to be irritable if you are. Have a sense of humor, enjoy your kids for who they are, and keep in mind that what you’ll all remember when it’s over is likely to be the unexpected moment when everybody was relaxed.

Take shortcuts — If you can’t fathom the idea of skipping out on baking, seeing people and doing all of the stuff that usually runs you ragged, you may do better including all of these activities in your schedule, but on a smaller scale. If you find ways to cut corners or tone down the activities important to you and your family, you may enjoy them much more.

Hike your mood with sunlight — Sunlight stimulates the production of feel-good serotonin and also helps relieve seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which impacts millions of Americans every year, says Dr. Judith Orloff. To ease SAD symptoms, spend time outdoors or near a window on sunny days.

Take a whiff of citrus — Researchers studying depression have found that citrus fragrances boost feelings of well-being and alleviate stress by upping levels of norepinephrine, a hormone that affects mood. Dab a little lemon or orange essential oil on your mask or clothes.

Prep kids for changes in routine — Holidays represent a change in schedule, and for some kids that’s unsettling. Preparing them for changes in their routines — what to expect and what you expect of them — will help head off meltdowns. If you’re traveling, bring familiar toys and books, and make sure you have frequent one-on-one time like games, walks, chats and bedtime reading.

Turn on some music — Anxious? Listen to your favorite music, whether it’s Jingle Bell Rock or the latest from Jay-Z. Research shows that hearing music you love can relax blood vessels and increase blood flow. Not only does it calm you down, but is good for your heart, too.

Managing holiday expectations — The holiday season only comes once a year, and while it’s understandable to aspire for perfection, it’s important to set realistic, attainable goals. For example, make a budget and be kind to yourself. Focus on spending time with loved ones. Your friends and family will be happy to create memories with you, so don’t spend time worrying about the perfect gift. For those you love and who love you, your presence is the best gift of all.

The holidays bring joy and happiness, as well as frustration and stress. This holiday season you may have many things to take care of, and most important of all, take care of yourself!