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Managing Holiday Stress

Nov graphic 11By Eloise D. Keene, MS, MPH, RD, LDN, CDE, Certified Diabetes Educator, Diabetes Management & Supplies

Coping with Stress as the Holidays Approach

You have now been on your “wellness journey” for several months. You may have conquered the addition of physical activity to your daily life, added carrots or squash as new meal choices, even gone to the doctor or had your blood / labs drawn here at work. Now, it’s time for the holidays! You can almost smell the turkey or “Tofu Turkey” and hear those jingle bells. It is an exciting time, so why do you feel so jittery and out of sorts as November and December appear on the calendar?

Holidays are supposed to be fun and joyous occasions. But for many, they bring an unusual amount of stress.

Do the children have commitments to activities and events, but you have time constraints?

Are your in-laws arriving for Thanksgiving and staying until Christmas? Will they be at your home preparing your spouse’s family’s traditional holiday meals?

Is this the busiest time of year at your job and you will be working overtime from November 1 until the New Year?

Does the excitement of holiday shopping just get you down? Who to buy for, what to buy, how much to spend on a gift? Does this mean your wallet will be empty all the way to Easter or will you say, “charge it please,” and then look at a mountain of credit card debt in the New Year?

Will you spend the holidays alone? Do you feel that preparing a celebration for one is something you cannot bear?

All of these issues and situations fill our lives with holiday stress and anxiety. The key is how you react and find a solution to manage the stress. How do you normally react to additional stress in your life? Do you find yourself eating more? Munching on one more cookie or slice of cake that work buddies or acquaintances have shared.  Maybe you find it so much more enjoyable to share holiday treats with others.

Do you find yourself accepting more glasses of eggnog or holiday cheer? Stress reduction comes with an increased intake of alcoholic beverages for some individuals. If you have experienced successful weight loss over your wellness journey, it is important to remember that alcoholic beverages are not calorie free.

Did you stop smoking on your path to wellness? Now with holiday stress, do you find yourself yearning for a cigarette? Do holiday parties have you wanting to do something with your hands and that cigarette, cigar or pipe finds its way back into your life. This can seem particularly true when one is drinking more alcoholic beverages, and for some highly stressed individuals, reaching for that smoke and a drink seem to go hand in hand at holiday parties.

Tips to Reduce and Manage Holiday Stress

Learn to say no. You do not need to attend every party nor have your child attend every event they are invited to attend. Select several or just a few and make and create holiday traditions at home.

Make gifts at home for presents. Gifts that offer time spent or activities performed may bring fonder memories than the purchase of an expensive toy.

Select a cost limit for gift purchases. This can reduce the future stress of nagging credit card bills in the New Year.

Offer and buy a gift for someone less fortunate. The idea that one is thankful for what they have and can offer happiness to another is a spiritual gift of gratitude for the giver.

Understand why having guests increases your stress. Do you feel you cannot meet their expectations; do they require you to behave differently and in a way that is uncomfortable for you thus increasing your holiday anxiety?

Does the job stress overwhelm you? Can you think of stress reducers like exercise, prayer, or meditation that will allow you to reach a happy place and combat (overcome) the work stressors?

Stress can be dealt with by emotion-focused based solutions and problem-focused solving techniques. Stress will most likely continue to build if not dealt with appropriately. Denying the problem and not confronting stress (avoidance) only allows stress to continue to build and have negative effects on health and also interfere with your individual wellness journey.

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