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Keep Holiday Stress at Bay Week 2: Know When to say No

The holidays are loaded with joy and fun, but they can also be frenetic and stressful, leaving you feeling frazzled and depleted. I would like offer you some simple strategies to help you protect your mental well-being this season.

I love this time of the year, but also know how much stress and anxiety it can stir up when you think everything must be perfect. Several years ago, I checked in with myself during this season and vowed I would not become stressed, exhausted or panicked and instead, fill my days of December with love, warmth, happiness and blessings. Today, I am going to share with you how you can avoid the stress and frazzled moments with some quick tips.

In our already hectic life, we need to fit in buying gifts, creating holiday cards, meals to prepare, events to plan and how to fit in visiting with family and friends. This year may look a little different than past years due to COVID, but even with all of this tiered down, it can still be overwhelming.

Tip #1: Family Boundaries

This may actually be the silver lining in your holiday. If you find it challenging to be around certain family members, this is a great year for you to set boundaries with them. Since COVID hit, many families have been limiting time spent together. Instead of staying three or four nights, opt for just one or two nights depending on the length of the drive. This is the year to not break the bank in trying to get to multiple states or cities to visit everyone. You won’t hurt anyone’s feelings if you politely say you cannot make it to visit this year. Set up separate Zoom holiday parties just for that particular family and have fun with it. Make their favorite dishes and ask them for their green bean recipe so your family can enjoy it at your home too. You can create breakout rooms for the kids to join the fun and play games too. Be realistic and don’t promise to take on more than you can. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to some invitations and make sure you stick to your guns with others. Pick the specific family or friends you would like to see in person and the rest do online or with facetime. This is the best year to perfect your “No Thank You” with grace.

Tip #2: Appreciate your Expectations

The holiday season can bring about daydreams about those perfect decorations, well dressed family, a hugely decorated tree and a roaring fire. Sadly, this may not match your actual reality and that is okay. Be realistic before any festivities begin. Be flexible and be okay that things may not go as planned. Your son may never take his hoodie off for any pictures and that is okay. Your potatoes got cold before the turkey came out and that’s okay. Have a plan B in mind and how you can warm up the food and simply enjoy each other’s company without worrying about what happens. Mental well-being can take a hit if our reality doesn’t match up with our defined ideas. If we are open and flexible to anything that happens, we are much more likely to enjoy our time and be happy with the results. Our world is not a hallmark movie. It can be messy, unpredictable and chaotic at times. Go with the flow and expect less so you are more fulfilled in the end. Do you really need to put up every single holiday decoration? The answer is NO. Maybe this is the year that you simplify your holiday décor? Only put up a wreath and one strand of white lights outside. Only put up one tree in the main room and leave the rest of the house undecorated. Does it really matter if the basement bathroom has holiday towels? The answer is NO. The less you do, the more time you have to enjoy the actual meaning of the season.

Tip #3: Create your Budget

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas it is very hard to avoid spending too much money. The sales are tempting and there are gifts to finalize, food, drinks, activities and still more food so it can add up quickly. Take time to create a budget and realize you must stick to it. Create a list of who you will be spending money on and the types of gifts you can buy for that price point. Set money aside in a separate account and if you can, pay in cash instead of credit. Circle the one item that would be best for that person and then go on your shopping day and mark them all off your list. Do not deviate from your list. Trust your initial gut thought and go with it. You will love how quickly you can get your shopping done and with less stress. That way your stress will also be low in January when you start to receive the billing invoices.

Tip #4: Excess Alcohol

This year may be a little different than the past years where there were so many opportunities to partake in alcohol over the holidays. From your company parties to the neighbor’s annual potluck to toasting at dinners and events. This year may not offer that many opportunities, but it is still a good rule of thumb to limit your alcohol consumption during the holidays. Make a plan to only drink on the weekends and not during the week. When you go to a party, drink a glass of water after every drink and pace yourself. You will appreciate yourself the next day as your body will not be hurting and you will be able to fully function without regret. Excess alcohol can cause interpersonal problems with friends and family as well as health issues, including increase weight gain, diabetes and sleep issues. Don’t add more stress to your system by over-indulging. It may seem that the alcohol reduces stress, but in the long run it just makes things worse for you mentally and physically. Choose a different stress management technique to deal with the specific stress you think that glass of wine will help. If you are at a loss as to what that may be, reach out to me and I can give you some specific tips for you and your particular stress.

Tip#5: Calorie Intake Awareness

This is a fun time to try the treats that your Aunt Mary sent you or indulge in another piece of pie or ham at dinner, but remember your health and wellness goals should not take a back seat during this time of the year. If you are able to keep a healthy eating regime during the holidays you get a high five and several gold stars! This is a hard task to accomplish. Be patient with yourself and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t eat as healthy during the holidays. It is okay to splurge a bit but make solid attempts to moderate what you eat and how much you exercise each day. Choose a healthy option more often than the non-healthy option. Try not to go back for seconds. The guilt of falling into that “sweet” cycle and gaining weight over the holidays can derail any confidence you had in keeping healthy and happy. DO NOT GO THERE. Choose five healthy options and then two non-healthy options and see how you do. When you can minimize the guilt, your sense of mental well-being during the holidays can stay positive and grateful. You will be surprised at how you can still feel happy, satisfied, full and still in charge of your weight during this season.

Tip #6: Move your Body

This is not the time to let your exercise routine go out the window either. On contrary, keeping your normal exercise routine will help you handle the holiday stress as well as the holiday foods you will be eating. You may need to shift your workout routine a bit, but still get some form of movement in every single day. If you are a walker, keep walking and maybe choose another route a few days a week. If you are a runner, choose a couple more hill climbs than before, especially if you find you can’t run or walk as much as possible. On the days you can, add ten more minutes and a layer of challenge with a hill or two. If the weather is too cold, opt for indoor streaming classes you can do from your living room. Getting out in nature is still one the easiest ways to lower stress and anxiety. Learn how to snowshoe or cross-country ski. Take winter hikes in your neighborhood and discover a lake or park that you never knew about. Nature will always boost your mood and self-esteem. Many online classes will offer that kick in the butt that you need to stay motivated through your day. I offer 8 live Zoom fitness classes each week and record 5 out of the 8 so you can do them at your convenience. I will never workout at 5am, but if that is your favorite time, by all means pop on that recording and go for it. **Information on my classes can be found at the end of the article.

Tip #7: Acknowledge Loneliness

This time of year can be a struggle for some. It can be lonely and isolated leading to more sadness or depression and with the pandemic it can add to feelings of loneliness. In order to beat this, it is necessary to plan a bit ahead of time. If you know that this time of year can bring these feelings for you or a loved one, see what types of things you can do to keep your mind busy and happy. Keep up with a hobby you or your loved one likes to do. Volunteer for a local charity. Join a group that likes to do the same things you like. This time of year can bring up memories of those we lost. How about starting new traditions to create more positive memories? Make your loved one’s favorite recipe or listen to their favorite music. Talk with others who may be going through the same thing. They will understand where you are coming from and could offer you some advice or just have a sympathetic ear for you. If you know of a friend who is having a hard time this season due to a recent loss, reach out to them and offer to make them dinner, take them on a drive around to see the holiday lights or spend an afternoon watching holiday movies together. Sometimes the best gift is the gift of your presence.

Remember, moderation is key around the holidays.

Moderation of family.

Moderation of friends.

Moderation of food.

Moderation of spending.

Moderation of alcohol.

Moderation of activities.

Moderation of yes’s.

By setting yourself some guidelines ahead of time you can save yourself some serious stress and anxiety this holiday. Create some amazing memories for you and your family with a better handle on your mental well-being.


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