Doing Too Much
The problem with the holiday season is that we often experience too much of a good thing. While stress itself is necessary for our survival and zest for life (researchers call this positive type of stress “eustress”), too much stress has a negative impact on our health, both mental and physical. Too many activities, even if they are fun activities, can culminate in too much holiday stress and leave us feeling frazzled, rather than fulfilled.
Eating, Drinking and Spending Too Much
An overabundance of parties and gift-giving occasions lead many people to eat, drink, and be merry — often to excess. The temptation to overindulge in spending, rich desserts or alcohol can cause many people the lasting stress of dealing with consequences (debt, weight gain, memories of embarrassing behavior) that can linger long after the season is over. Also, in these more difficult financial times, finding affordable gifts can be stress in itself, and carrying holiday debt is a tradition that too many people unwittingly bring on themselves, and the stress that comes with it can last for months.
Too Much Togetherness
The holidays are a time when extended families tend to gather. While this can be a wonderful thing, even the most close-knit families can overdose on togetherness, making it hard for family members to maintain a healthy balance between bonding and alone time. Many families also have ‘roles’ that each member falls into that have more to do with who individuals used to be rather than who they are today, which can sometimes bring more dread than love to these gatherings.
Not Enough Togetherness
For those who don’t have these family issues, loneliness can be just as much of a problem. As the world seems to be gathering with family, those who rely more on friends for support can feel deserted and alone.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
An often unrecognized problem that comes with the holiday season is actually a by-product of the seasons changing from fall to winter. As daylight diminishes and the weather causes many of us to spend more time indoors, many people are affected to some degree by a type of depression known as seasonal affective disorder. It’s a subtle, but very real condition that can cast a pall over the whole season and be a source of stress and unhappiness during a time that people expect to feel just the opposite.
What Can We Do to Minimize the Holiday Stress?
The great thing about holiday stress is that it’s predictable. Unlike many other types of negative stress we encounter in life, we know when holiday stress will begin and end, and we can make plans to reduce the amount of stress we experience and the negative impact it has on us.
Set Your Priorities
Before you get overwhelmed by too many activities, it’s important to decide what traditions offer the most positive impact and eliminate superfluous activities. For example, if you usually become overwhelmed by a flurry of baking, caroling, shopping, sending cards, visiting relatives and other activities that leave you exhausted by January, you may want to examine your priorities, pick a few favorite activities and really enjoy them, while skipping the rest.
Be Smart With Holiday Eating
During the holidays, we may want to look and feel great (especially if we’re around people we don’t see often–we know that this is how we’ll be remembered), but there is so much temptation in the form of delicious food and decadent desserts, and a break from our regular routines–plus the addition of emotional stress–can all add up to overeating, emotional eating, and other forms of unhealthy eating. This year, plan ahead by being aware of your triggers, do what you can to have some healthy food at hand for each meal, be aware of your intake, and practice mindful eating. The resource below will provide more in-depth information on how to successfully do these things and more.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes we forget to take deep breaths and really give our bodies the oxygen we need. It’s great if you can take ten minutes by yourself to do a breathing meditation, but merely stopping to take a few deep, cleansing breaths can reduce your level of negative stress in a matter of minutes, too.
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