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Holiday Wellness

Friday, December 2, 2016

The day after Thanksgiving has always been designated as Christmas tree day in our household. From the time the kiddos were wee little ones, we bundled up everyone, headed out to the hills of Springwater, and cut down our Christmas tree at our friend’s tree farm. The tree was then set up in the corner of the living room, lights put on, and ornaments hung. Of course, some years were more idyllic than others….think children crying from one too many snowballs in the face, dad getting more than a tad irritated with the tree and unwieldy tree stand, and kitty cats toppling thoroughly decorated trees (not once but twice!). And of course, those were all small issues compared to the years when Grandma had cancer or Dad had a heart attack. Those were the years when we all tried to hold it together, put on a happy face, and trudge through the holidays. The reality is not every holiday season is a Hallmark movie with beautiful people, houses, and decorations and with relationships that all work out in the end.

Life brings with it certain stressors and the holiday season can add to them with parties, shopping, baking, wrapping, cleaning, entertaining, and expectations; not to mention finances and families. Even in the best of years, there is bound to be stress as we try to fit everything in. No matter what life is bringing you this holiday season, managing stress and staying healthy is crucial to your mental and physical well-being. Taking some time for relaxation and keeping it all in perspective is the key to not only surviving the holidays but perhaps really enjoying them as well. The American Psychological Association and the Mayo Clinic have the following tips for coping with holiday stress:

  1. Be Realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect. Families grow and change over time. Being flexible with traditions and creating new traditions together makes for a happier holiday for everyone.

  2. Stick to your budget. Decide on your food and gift budget ahead of time and stick to it. If you don’t, not only will December be stressful but January will as well when the credit card bill lands in your mailbox.

  3. Take a bit of time to relax. Make some time for yourself. Fitting in a 15-20 minute catnap, taking a quiet walk by yourself, or listening to some great music may be just enough to clear your mind before you tackle the next project.

  4. Don’t stuff your feelings but reach out. If someone close to you has recently died, you can’t be with loved ones, or the holidays are the anniversary of something traumatic, acknowledge those feelings. It is OK and perfectly normal to feel sadness and grief. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it is the holidays. That being said, often the best antidote is reaching out. If you feel lonely and isolated, seek out community, religious, or social events. Consider volunteering. Helping others is frequently a great way to lift your spirits. NOTE: If you feel persistently sad or anxious for an extended period of time, speak with your physician. If you feel that you may harm yourself or others, call 911.

  5. Learn to say no. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. Plan ahead and keep a calendar so you don’t overschedule.

Be Realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect. Families grow and change over time. Being flexible with traditions and creating new traditions together makes for a happier holiday for everyone.

Stick to your budget. Decide on your food and gift budget ahead of time and stick to it. If you don’t, not only will December be stressful but January will as well when the credit card bill lands in your mailbox.

Take a bit of time to relax. Make some time for yourself. Fitting in a 15-20 minute catnap, taking a quiet walk by yourself, or listening to some great music may be just enough to clear your mind before you tackle the next project.

Don’t stuff your feelings but reach out. If someone close to you has recently died, you can’t be with loved ones, or the holidays are the anniversary of something traumatic, acknowledge those feelings. It is OK and perfectly normal to feel sadness and grief. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it is the holidays. That being said, often the best antidote is reaching out. If you feel lonely and isolated, seek out community, religious, or social events. Consider volunteering. Helping others is frequently a great way to lift your spirits. NOTE: If you feel persistently sad or anxious for an extended period of time, speak with your physician. If you feel that you may harm yourself or others, call 911.

Learn to say no. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. Plan ahead and keep a calendar so you don’t overschedule.

To learn more about stress management and the holidays, try these websites: American Psychological Association at http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/holiday-season.aspx or the Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544.

Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at Noyes Health in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles she can be reached at lwichtowski@noyeshealth.org or 585-335-4327.

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