The #holidayseason is the most wonderful time of the year, but for many it is also the most stressful time of the year. Whether it’s the demands of shopping, cooking, and parties or the pressure on finances and/or relationships, the fast-paced months of November and December can take a toll – physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Even short-lived stress can have an impact. Minor #stress may bring on a headache or stomach upset, while major acute stressors such as a fight with your spouse have been known to trigger heart attacks. The longer stress lasts, the worse it is for your mind and body. Chronic stress over an extended period of time can interfere with your ability to live a normal life. You might feel fatigued, unable to concentrate, or irritable for no apparent reason.
Reducing your stress levels will make you feel better now and protect your long-term health. In one study, researchers examined the association between “positive effect” feelings like happiness, contentment, and enthusiasm and the development of coronary heart disease over a decade. For every one-point increase in positive affect on a five-point scale, the rate of heart disease dropped by 22 percent.
The key to managing daily stress is to learn healthy coping strategies. These practical tips can help minimize stress and ensure that your holidays are truly happy:
Plan ahead: Schedule specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends, and other holiday activities. Plan menus and make shopping lists to avoid last-minute runs for missing ingredients. When entertaining, arrange for help with prep and cleanup well in advance.
Say no: Making too many commitments can leave you feeling overwhelmed and resentful. Avoid cramming your schedule and trust that friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every activity.
Stick with healthy habits: Overindulging during the holidays adds to your stress and guilt. Make self-care a priority and focus on eating right and getting plenty of rest (lack of sleep can increase stress). Commit to doing some sort of daily physical activity to get your endorphins pumping and improve your mood.
Calm your mind: At Body Wisdom, we use Young Living Essential Oils to reduce stress and support a positive emotional state. At home, you can access the power of these health-promoting botanicals to calm your mind. For example, if meditation helps you create a more manageable day, enhance the experience by diffusing or applying a few drops of essential oils to your temples, neck, or the soles of your feet.
Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect or “just like last year.” Family traditions often change over time. Choose one or two that are important to continue, and be open to creating new experiences.
Show #compassion. Don’t let stressful distractions cause you to forget what this season is really about. Accept the shortcomings of loved ones and practice understanding if others get upset when something goes wrong. They may be feeling the effects of holiday stress, too.
Ask for help. If you continue to feel overwhelmed, consult with a mental health professional. He or she can help you identify situations or behaviors that contribute to your chronic stress and develop a plan for managing it effectively.