July 31, 2014
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

Columnists

 Health Home 
Columnists News

Don't let stress sideline you during the holidays Dec. 17, 2012
Written by: MARILYN LINTON, Special to QMI Agency

(Fotolia)

Not all Christmas memories are Kodak moments. There are many Canadians who become even more stressed during the holidays because of family tensions, time pressures and money. Here’s a list of things you can do to stay on top of the game:

First, set realistic expectations about what you can accomplish over the holiday season (remember that those precisely decorated cookies and celebrity Yuletide rooms took time, money and a crew of stylists for them to get on a magazine cover!).

Share the work on the big day by asking others to contribute to dinner, even if their mashed potatoes have lumps or their wine is closer to plonk than perfection.

Ad
A couple of years ago, the U.S. based research agency, Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner, looked at holiday stress and how it differs from stress at other times of the year. They concluded that the holidays can be harrowing, particularly for women who add shopping, cooking and party planning to an already challenging list of things to do.

“People wonder where they will find the time and money to get everything done,” their report concludes. “It is during these times that many people experience an increase in stress that can detract from the celebrations and downtime they seek.”

Put yourself first

Make sure you buy yourself a present, go for a walk, sneak off to a movie: A healthier you means finding balance during these hectic days.

With our focus so much on others, we can forget ourselves and become inexplicably stressed and sad, says Dr. Colleen Carney, director of the Sleep and Depression Lab at Toronto’s Ryerson University. She doesn’t believe in sacrificing sleep just to get more done. Sleep deprivation is a major mood killer, she says.

“An irritable host will be noticed long before the place cards and napkin rings that you stayed up until 2 a.m. to finish.”

 Watch the diet

The stress of the season can also make us react in unhealthy ways like overeating for comfort (easy to do with eggnog, candy canes and shortbread around) and neglecting to exercise.

“When times get crazy, the thing people give up is exercise, and that’s the thing a person needs,” says Erica Christ, an exercise physiologist at Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut who was interviewed by sciencedaily.com, a research news website.

“Exercise allows you time to focus, and gives you a sense of mindfulness that makes the other pieces of your life fall into place.”

Stress is normal

“It’s totally normal to feel stressed,” Dr. Richard Earle, managing director of the Canadian Institute of Stress/Hans Selye Foundation, told the Canadian Health Network. Stress is the spice in life, but you need to learn to protect yourself from its harmful ways.

One good tip is to build a sense of fail-safe achievement by asking yourself, at the beginning of each day during the holidays, “What two small things can I do that, no matter what else happens, will make a good day for me?” Then do those two things, such as making cookies and freezing them and ordering the turkey, and congratulate yourself for achieving them.

Learn from the past, says The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin whose website www.happiness-project.com offers tips on how to beat holiday stress: Ask yourself what has made you unhappy in your past and avoid those triggers. “Don’t expose yourself to known happiness risks,” she writes. You can also minimize physical stress by saying no to the occasional invite or, if partying, hanging back from the buffet that has been picked over and coughed on. While it may be difficult to avoid the viruses, the fatigue, the fight for mall parking spaces, or the endless Christmas music, but you can tame the stress that threatens to turn you into the Grinch.

How Stressful?

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 69% of people are stressed over the holidays due to a lack of time; 69% are stressed due to a lack of money; and 51% are stressed by the need to buy gifts.

Get a Grip

  • Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect.
  • Try to accept family members and friends as they are. Set aside grievances for a later time.
  • Stick to a budget before you go gift and food shopping.
  • Don’t try to buy happiness.
  • Learn to say no.
  • Don’t abandon healthy habits.

mayoclinic.com

Celebrate Your Solitude

Being alone can be particularly stressful during the holidays. Be proactive and either plan a get together with others who have no family obligations, plan an outing, get away a few days, volunteer, and, above all, adjust your expectations about what makes a good holiday.

 

MORE COLUMNS BY MARILYN LINTON, SPECIAL TO QMI AGENCY

The contents of this site are for informational purposes only and are meant to be discussed with your physician or other qualified health care professional before being acted on. Never disregard any advice given to you by your doctor or other qualified health care professional. Always seek the advice of a physician or other licensed health care professional regarding any questions you have about your medical condition(s) and treatment(s). This site is not a substitute for medical advice.

© 1996 - 2014 MediResource Inc. - MediResource reaches millions of Canadians each year.