Tips for managing holiday stress

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    By Robin Young
    PREVIEW Columnist

    Happy Thanksgiving! It’s that time of year when we can put the stresses of work and day-to-day life away and focus on a nice, long relaxing weekend with family and friends. It’s also that time of year when we invite friends and family over to watch football and yell at the TV and eat ourselves into a food coma. And that’s just Thursday.

    Hosting friends and family staying over for a few days over a holiday can be stressful in itself. It’s a long process of planning and preparing for a houseful of guests. There is the cleaning, shopping and cooking before they come. Then trying to figure out where to put everyone becomes a game — Jerry has to sleep far from anyone because he snores and Maddison wets the bed (always a joy). Then the day they all arrive, they unpack everything including the four dogs, a gerbil and two extra people that had nowhere to go for the holiday. Being the gracious host, we try to be accommodating and meet everyone’s needs.

    The holidays are also infamous for spats or complete blow-outs with mostly family, but sometimes our friends, too. Is Uncle Jim going to bring up the time cousin Steve borrowed his mower and returned it broken? That one always turns into a fiasco. I wonder if Sally will start talking about how depressing her life is and bring everyone down. Time to put the wine away. 

    Too often, we take holiday stress for granted; we don’t give ourselves enough relief. What’s worse, we often have higher expectations for this season than for any other time of the year. Planning for the holidays, whether you are hosting or visiting, can leave us feeling impatient, cranky and — in some cases — depressed. When the realities of day-to-day life conflict with our efforts to make the holiday season perfect, stress results. At the end of the day, we are exhausted, but we are filled with a warm sense that we are surrounded by loved ones. 

    Here are some simple things to remember during the holidays to help manage your stress:

    • Keep your expectations balanced. You won’t get everything you want, things will go wrong and you won’t feel like Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas.” Remember that everything doesn’t have to be perfect and don’t worry about things that are out of your control.

    • Don’t try to do too much. Fatigue, over-scheduling and taking on too many tasks can dampen your spirits. Learn to say no, delegate as much as possible and manage your time wisely. If you choose to do less, you will have more energy to enjoy the most important part of the season — friends and family.

    • Take a quiet moment for yourself, remember that you are caring for others and you need to take care of yourself. Take a walk or close the door to your room or bathroom and breathe. Enjoy yourself with family and friends, too. You made it all come together; enjoy the fruits of your labor.

    • Watch your diet and remember to exercise. It’s normal to eat more during the holidays, but be aware of how certain foods affect your mood. If you eat fats and sweets, you will have less energy, which can make you feel more stressed and run down. It can be very helpful to take a walk before and/or after a big holiday meal.

    • Be aware of the post-holiday syndrome. When all the hustle and bustle suddenly stops and you have to get back to the daily grind, it can be a real letdown. Ease out of all the fun by planning a rest day toward the end of the season.

    • Learn forgiveness and acceptance. If some of your relatives have always acted out or made you feel bad, chances are that won’t change. If you know what you’re getting into, it will be easier to not let them push your buttons. If things get uncomfortable, go to a movie or for a drive and adjust your attitude.

    It’s in these most chaotic of times that we make the most lasting memories. It’s up to each of us to make those lasting memories as wonderful as we can. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

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