Top five ways to manage stress during the holidays

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Life can get very hectic during the holidays, and it is easy to overdo and get overwhelmed. It is not unusual for people to forget to set time aside for themselves. According to Healthline, over 60 percent of adults report increased stress during holidays and identify lack of time and finances as the primary sources.

We can experience many emotions this time of the year ranging from joy to sadness to anger. Memories from childhood often surface and, based on your experience, can bring joy or sadness. Losses may become more pronounced during this time of the year. The death of a loved one or loss of important relationships can trigger sadness.
During the holidays, it is usually expected that you will spend some time with your family, which for some may bring on a sense of dread. If there is toxicity and conflict in these relationships, you may want to keep your interactions to a minimum.

If you feel emotionally or physically unsafe, you may avoid them altogether.
Maintenance of good emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health can help deal with holiday pressures. The top five ways to manage stress during the holidays are as follows:

1. Remember the reason for the season
According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, 90 percent of adults living in the United States celebrate Christmas, but only 55 percent consider it a religious holiday. Getting together with family, exchanging gifts, and charity are some of the traditions practiced by many.
Santa Claus, Christmas carols, and holiday shows on TV are popular family activities during the season. This year, consider developing your own tradition that gives the holidays meaning to you.

2. Manage your time
One way to manage your time is to make a list prioritizing your goals, recognizing, however, that you may not get to everything. “Less is More” is an attitude that may also help you through the holidays.
Being able to say no and managing your time can prevent you from engaging in activities that you don’t have time for or you simply would prefer not to participate in. Schedule the activities that are at the top of your list, and spread them out over several days if possible.

3. Manage your eating and drinking
During the holidays, people are at risk for overeating and excessive drinking. For many, the traditional holiday meal is loaded with high fat, high sugar foods that taste very good. You do not have to eat everything that is on the menu.
It’s best to have a plan, such as only choosing foods that are your favorites. Use your calories wisely!
Holidays also increase the risk of excessive alcohol consumption. Of all holidays, more people drink on New Year’s Eve, with Christmas drinking coming in second.
If you plan to drink, you should have a designated driver. In Minnesota, the blood alcohol level legal driving limit of 0.08 percent is considered driving while impaired (DWI); however, according to the state’s Department of Public Safety, you can be charged even if the level is lower. Some factors that can influence your alcohol level are weight, gender, and time of your last meal.

4. Ask for help
With the stress during the holidays, it is easy to get overwhelmed and depressed. If you have supportive family and friends, ask them for help. As an example, if you are cooking the holiday meal, ask others to bring dishes to be shared and to clean up afterward.
Depression can happen at any time of the year, but during the holiday stress, feelings of loss and disappointments can lead to increased sadness. Some people are more vulnerable to depressive symptoms, and if it is having a significant impact on your functioning or you feel hopeless, talking with a professional therapist can help. Acknowledgement of your feelings and reaching out to others are steps you can take to address depression and stress.

5. Take care of yourself
As a result of the hustle and bustle of holiday activities, taking care of yourself may be overlooked. The Mayo Clinic has some recommendations on dealing with the stress of holidays.
They suggest you set aside some time, even 10-15 minutes, for yourself for quiet renewal. Taking a walk, listening to music or reading are some activities that can clear your mind.

According to the American Institute of Stress, one of the best stress busters is breathing. Dr. Andrew Weil, a widely known practitioner of holistic and integrative health, recommends counting your breaths to reduce the impact of stress on the body.

In this practice, you count each time that you exhale beginning with number one. You continue this until you reach number five and then start over again. Counting your breaths several times each day is something that is useful year-round to reduce the impact of stress.

“Every day brings a choice: to practice stress, or to practice peace,” says stress expert Joan Borysenko. If you are feeling overly stressed, depressed or anxious, you can follow up with a mental health professional or primary medical provider.

For further information, contact Dr. Deirdre Golden, director of Behavioral Health at NorthPoint Health & Wellness, 612-543-2705.

About Dr. Deirdre Golden

Dr. Deirdre Golden, director of behavioral health at NorthPoint Health & Wellness, welcomes reader responses to 612-543-2705.

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