It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but the hustle and bustle of the holidays also means it’s the season for stress. And that can take a toll on your mental and physical health. If you're feeling anxious, taking care of yourself should be at the top of your holiday list. It’s one of the most important things you can do this time of year, for yourself and for your friends and family.
Here are four common holiday stressors and some ways to help make the season merrier and brighter:
1) Family drama
The holidays are a time to come together with family from near and far. But family time isn’t always about peace and harmony. Differing views and unpredictable behavior can make the holidays especially challenging.
Don’t feel like you have to go above and beyond to make your loved ones feel comfortable. And if family commotion has you feeling overwhelmed or overly sensitive, give yourself a break. Take a walk around the block to clear your head, or find brief moments of peace by simply going into another room. If being with family is just too unpleasant or unhealthy for you, it’s okay to leave or just say no to spending time with them.
The best doctors will tell you that tuning into your feelings is a good prescription for your mental well-being. Open up the lines of communication and be honest with your loved ones when you’re feeling the emotional strain. It may be difficult, but being up front with your family will help in the long run and lead to happier holidays for everyone. If you’re not one to freely show your emotions, try keeping a mood journal. Writing down situations that cause you stress can ground you in the moment and help you steer clear of volatile family dynamics in the future.
2) Holiday eating
From Grandma’s homemade fudge to heaping scoops of buttery mashed potatoes, food can be one of the most stressful aspects of the holidays. While it’s tempting to opt for another piece of pecan pie, indulging can do more harm than good.Too many sweets can make you lethargic, irritable and unfocused, and overeating rich foods may cause indigestion or stomach pain.
Throughout the holiday season, try to eat a balanced diet to ensure you don’t go overboard. Eating healthy will also keep your spirits and energy up amid the craziness of the holidays. That doesn't mean you should restrict yourself completely. Eat in moderation, and let your stomach tell you when your full. Consider bringing or serving healthier dishes to supplement your seasonal favorites, or fill up on healthy options at home before the festivities begin.
3) Unreasonable seasonal expectations
From planning to hosting to hitting the party circuit, the holidays can mean more festivities than you’re up for. Don’t be afraid to trim the social calendar. The last thing you want is to be sick or exhausted during the holidays.
You may also want to reconsider some holiday traditions. Baking dozens of cookies or knitting festive scarves for friends and family are lovely ideas, but keeping up with long-held rituals can easily overwhelm and overshadow the spirit of the season. Keep the expectations reasonable. Focus on what’s important to you, and don’t worry about creating the perfect Martha Stewart experience.
4) Sleep and exercise deprivation
The holiday season can often upend our regular routines. Lack of sleep and exercise can worsen stress and may aggravate existing health conditions or lead to something else.
Stick to your regular exercise and sleep schedule to keep your mood and immune system in check. A brisk walk in the crisp, winter air will do wonders for your well-being, and your favorite Netflix shows can be enjoyed just as much from the treadmill as the couch. When stressful situations do come up during the holidays, you’ll be better equipped to handle them.
Don’t let stress get in the way of your holiday cheer. As challenging as it may seem this time of year, it’s important to slow down and take time to take care of yourself.
And if you do end up catching a winter bug, rest easy – we’re here to help. The friendly medical providers at your neighborhood Immediate Clinic are available 8 am to 8 pm, seven days a week, including holidays.
Wishing you a healthy and happy holiday season!