No sooner than we have put away the Thanksgiving tableware and decorations, we begin planning for Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the New Year.
According to medical research, the holidays present a dizzying array of demands; from trimming the tree, to decorating the house, shopping for gifts, planning meals, and entertaining family and friends. And, while it may be tempting to do everything up “big” this time of year, practice enough “self-loving” caution amid your celebrations to keep your holidays healthy, sane, and happy.
At some point all of us have allowed unexpected events to take over the magic of the holidays. The unforeseen can easily take all the fun out of this special time of the year, and not only that—it’s also unhealthy. When the unexpected happens, our bodies react negatively to change, with physical, mental, and emotional responses.
Stress that continues without relief can lead to distress—a negative stress reaction. Distress is dangerous, and can lead to undesirable symptoms such as headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, depression, and sleeping problems. These symptoms, dangerous and unhealthy in themselves, can also lead people to holiday stress by over-indulging with alcohol, tobacco, or drugs.
There are many healthy ways to cope with the holidays. Below are a few suggestions.
One way to avoid unexpected stress during the holidays is to get organized. Don’t wait until the last minute to accomplish any major important tasks. Being organized will prevent heart attack-inducing moments and last-minute scrambling.
Focus on What Really Matters
Another way to avoid holiday drama and stress is to de-emphasize the materialism that rears its sneaky head this time of year. Drop expensive high-stress rituals in favor of something simple and universally appealing. If your finances are stressing you out, why not gift others with your time or special talents? These types of gifts are more heartfelt and don’t cost a dime.
Try not to put pressure on yourself to create the perfect holiday. Instead, focus on the traditions that make the holidays special for you. And remember—just because it’s a holiday, family problems and personal issues don’t go away. If you have a hard time being around your relatives, it’s okay to set limits on your time and visit.
Learn to Say “No”
The key word here is “no,” in any of its more gracious forms, as… “Oh, I’m so sorry, I have another [fill in the blank].” Rather than over-extending yourself and promising to make dinner for an army of people, pick out the gifts, and chair the entertainment committee, step back and let someone else take the reins. Practicing the gracious “no” will allow others the opportunity to showcase their creative skills and contribute to the merriment of the holidays.
Stay on Top of Your Health
The fact that there’s a lot to do this time of year does not mean that it’s okay to dump all those healthy habits you’ve been working on the entire year. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. You’ll only make yourself feel worse when you start adding guilt to the situation. Incorporate regular physical activity and exercise into each day. Get plenty of sleep. And have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, foods, or drinks.
Keep Your Mental Health In Check
The holidays are a time to decompress, reevaluate where you are in life, and cultivate your inner happiness. However, the holiday season can also bring mixed emotions. If you’re feeling blue, pamper yourself, do what feels good, and what you want to do without spoiling the holiday occasion for others.
If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to express your feelings, so don’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday. Take a walk, or spend some time alone. Remember, this is your holiday too, and you can be there for yourself just as you try to be there for everyone else.
If you’re cooking this holiday season, don’t let things get out of hand. Cooking is a big job, and people can easily make small kitchen mistakes that can lead to serious illnesses for themselves and others. Make sure to wash everything thoroughly and avoid cross-contamination. When working with meats, finish up that task and wash all of the surfaces you used before using that surface to prepare another dish. Also, remember to wash your hands often.
Finally, and just as important …
If You Are Sick, Stay Home
We’re entering the flu season now, and it’s only going to get worse from here on in. Other contagious illnesses abound as well. Avoid large crowds, for your health and the health of others. Your gift(s) can be packaged and sent to you, and vice-versa. This will insure that you, hopefully, will continue to improve, and your friends and relatives will continue to remain healthy.
So … we’ll say it, so you won’t have to: nothing’s worse than having sick relatives or friends in a closed environment spreading their holiday … well … illnesses! There will be other times to celebrate; so please, stay at home!
Following these suggestions can help make your holidays merry and bright—well into the New Year!