‘Tis the season to be jolly, or at least it is supposed to be. According to a recent survey of 2,000 American adults, 88% believe the holidays are the most stressful time of year. Stress can be detrimental to health, impacting sleep and exacerbating chronic illness. People with COPD and other chronic lung disease may already experience increased symptoms in the cold weather. To help you and all our readers have a happy holiday, here are five tips for avoiding and managing stress this season.
Plan, Yet Be Flexible
Over-booking holidays can be a major source of stress. With holiday activities, family plans, decorating, cooking, shopping, and giftwrapping on top of your regular schedule, you may be tempted to cut back on personal time or even sleep. Being pulled in so many directions is bound to cause stress that can take a toll on your health and your holiday cheer. Create a calendar or planner of all your holiday to-dos. It is okay to say no to some plans and accept that some things you plan may not turn out how you expect. Even with the holidays scheduled out, leave room for flexibility in case things take longer than planned or are too stressful to deal with that day.
Limit Spending, Set Your Budget
Sometimes the holidays are a financial burden, however, there are ways this source of stress so many people struggle with during this season. Before you shop, calculate and write out a budget of how much you can afford to spend on each person on your holiday gift list, holiday meals, and other extras the season brings. If you have trouble affording everything, maybe skip some things this year. Holiday cookies, for instance, do not need to be an annual tradition if it only causes stress. Maybe another family member can host Christmas dinner this year, or maybe you can mail gifts and celebrate over Zoom call. If you have too many gifts to shop for, maybe suggest to your friends and family a Secret Santa, Pollyanna, or White Elephant gift exchange so that you only need a present per exchange rather than per person.
Maintain the Pillars of Health
With so much to handle this season, it is common to neglect yourself a bit. Falling off your diet, altering your sleep schedule, and slacking on exercise to save time or celebrate during the holiday season. While you may think taking a break from your regular healthy routine will help you relieve stress and celebrate with some time to relax, it could cause you more stress in the long run. Breaking a diet can lead to feelings of guilt when consuming carb-based comfort foods, can cause stress from physical decline, or can even increase severity of symptoms in some chronic conditions. Exercise is a stress reliever due to the endorphins and serotonin released, so you may notice a decline in mood is you have slacked on your daily exercise this winter. The last pillar, sleep, helps give you the recuperation and energy needed to process emotions and have a celebratory holiday. Without your regular sleep schedule, you may experience daytime tiredness and increased irritability. Sticking to a healthy diet, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy sleep schedule of 7-9 hours a night can reduce stress. For tips on how to get more sleep despite the busy holidays, check out our sleep center’s recent article.
Avoid Family Conflicts
Sometimes family gatherings can be stressful. Differences in politics, expectations, or even humor can make holiday dinners awkward. Or maybe you stress over impressing the in-laws. Rather than stressing over how the dinner is going to go, try thinking of topics and responses that can keep the conversation cheerful. Avoid bringing up sore subjects and debates, and if someone else brings up any unwanted topics, deflect the conversation to another subject or try to avoid engaging in that conversation. The holidays are a time to celebrate friends and family and enjoy their company. Avoiding conflict will save you and your loved ones from the awkward, stressful tension at the dinner table.
Take Breaks to Celebrate
Possibly the most important way to de-stress during the holiday season is to leave some time to sit back and enjoy the wonders it has to offer. Watch some holiday movies, talk to the loved ones you have not seen in a while, take walks or drives to see the Christmas lights. Sometimes the holidays can move so quickly that you fail to realize they are passed. If you feel stressed, over-booked, or over-worked, the best thing to do is focus on you and your mental health. Being present in the moment often helps keep away stressful thoughts. Try to enjoy this time of year by taking breaks from holiday commitments to celebrate it the way you want to, stress-free.