Every year, the Holiday season seems to get more hectic. All the stores are having the best Christmas sale ever. There are magazine proclaiming how to make the holidays perfect. It’s a lot of pressure. Many of my patients ask me how they can manage stress during this time. They complain of fatigue, depression, insomnia, and feeling run down. The stress leaves them susceptible to colds and flu. Is there anything you can do to avoid this? The answer is yes. Let’s look at some tips to help you avoid the stress of the holidays and take better care of yourself.
The first tip has to do with diet. Right after Halloween, I walked into my local “health food” store and noticed something. There were holiday treats everywhere. Chocolate, cookies, and cakes were on every aisle. Patients tell me that from November until the end of the year everyone brings treats into work. There is temptation all around.
You can’t always avoid the treats at work. (Although you don’t have to eat them. ) But you don’t have to bring the sugar home. Instead of baking high-carbohydrate and sugary treats, try something new. These treats can give you the sweetness of this time of year in a healthy form. There are tons of blogs that have paleo and refined sugar free options for treats. (Big Man’s World and the Detoxinista are two of my favorites.) I suggest trying at least one new recipe this holiday.
Holidays have become a frantic rush to out do the year before. Magazines claim that we can make this years meal “the Best Holiday Dinner Ever!” But a simple refocus on the holiday from “best ever” to “let’s enjoy what we have” will help us reduce stress.
Here are a few tips to make the holiday meal less stressful:
• Think basics. If you want to do a holiday dinner, stick with the basics: meat and vegetables. If your guests have special requests, invite them to prepare that and bring it to share. You don’t have to do it all. The point is to express joy and love, not to spend your time and energy catering to a huge crowd.
• Draft help. Split up your task list and share it with the expected guests. Getting others involved will help them feel a part and allow you to enjoy the holiday more. Drafting help includes clean up and dishes. Set a rule that the TV doesn’t go on until the dishes are finished.
• Let go. If you’re the type that obsesses over details and needs things done just right, this is a good time to let it go. (Frozen song aside ). Remember that the dinner takes a fraction of the time to consume as it does to prepare. Let others help in their way so you can enjoy your guests.
Meals and sugar aren’t the only things stressful about the holidays. All the running around, buying the perfect gift, and parties can be stressful. Here are a few more tips to keep your mental health.
• Don’t be in a rush. Take time to enjoy each holiday celebration as it comes. If you don’t get everything done that’s OK. Be sure to enjoy the holiday yourself. If you like to give gifts, do so. But don’t at the expense of your own sanity and pocketbook.
• Drink Water. Drink enough water to stay hydrated. This will help your body detoxify. We tend to eat a lot of rich food this time of year. Water can help. It also helps decrease your chance of getting sick.
• Make sleep a priority. Try for 8 to 9 hours of deep refreshing sleep per night. This will recharge your batteries and helps prevent illness.
• Take Time for You. This is a social time of year. There are many parties and activities that people do in December. It’s easy to lose sight of your need to have some down time. Along with extra sleep, it’s a good idea to have some alone time. If you have people coming to stay with you, take a time-out before they arrive.
• Be Thankful. Many studies show that gratitude is a key component of health. The more thankful we are for things, the better our mental health. It can ward off depression and anxiety that could otherwise be a challenge this time of year.
I’m sure there are other ways to de-stress the holidays. These are just some simple ideas to get you started. Remember it is the season for sharing, joy, and love. If you can focus on those, you will be that much closer to staying healthy during the season.