Now that the holiday season is upon us, it is important to be aware that stress during this time of the year is very real. It is up there with divorce, moving, and changing jobs. Many people can get stressed at the mere thought of the demands the holiday season might place upon them. Stress at any time can stop you in your tracks and it may be very hard to identify the cause when it is affecting you. Often you don’t have the time to worry about why you have extra muscle aches, back pain, headaches or difficulty sleeping. In this way, stress is even more dangerous because you focus just on managing the symptoms instead of what is troubling you.
Rarely do two people handle stress in the same way, and rarely does the same situation cause the same sort of stress for two people
Stress comes when you allow a situation or problem to fester, when you worry about things out of your control and when you bottle up emotions instead of expressing them, either in healthy releases or by reaching out to others. Rarely do two people handle stress in the same way and rarely does the same situation cause the same sort of stress for two people. Although some of the symptoms of stress may be temporary, not dealing with it can lead to larger problems to your health and well-being.
If you’re feeling anxious, sick or on a treadmill that you can’t get off, the best thing to do is take a step back and think about what’s happening in your life. Oftentimes you can feel that a situation requires all of your attention and worry until it is resolved. You then commit yourself to seeing it through, no matter how many missed meals, fewer hours of sleep or days of rest and relaxation you lose over it. Unless a situation is truly life and death, taking a step back allows you to put the stressful situation in perceptive and see potential solutions. During the holiday season, find peace and joy by focusing on the present and not on worrying about the future or fretting about the past.
When a situation or decision is weighing on you in the form of stress, find a new way to approach the problem. This may mean opening up to a friend, family member or someone you trust, like a counselor or church leader about it. It’s amazing how many times problems that seem impossible to one person can be lessened by sharing the burden with another person. If you don’t have anyone you talk to or anyone you trust enough to share with, try writing down the aspects of your problem, either in a word document or with a good, old-fashioned pen and paper. This is another way to externalize your internal conflicts and potentially give rise to solutions you previously were not aware of until seeing them in writing. As the holiday season approaches make clear decisions about how you’d like to spend your time. Often the pressure of “fitting it all in” can be overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to politely RSVP that you are not able to commit or make plans to get together in the new year.
Perhaps the most important way to manage stress is to take care of yourself and find healthy outlets for the built-up tension and emotion especially during the holiday season. This means sleeping a consistent number of hours, making as many healthy food choices and by all means finding time to exercise, even when it seems like doing so will eat up your precious time. If you fit in your usual hour workout, plan for 20 to 30 minutes. It’ll still be worth your time and effort since any physical activity not only boosts your energy level but can improve your mood and just make you feel better. Staying active can also include taking the stairs in the shopping malls vs the escalator and parking further away from the entrance. Every little bit of movement can help. The holiday season is also very much about the food and it’s easy to be tempted with sugary and empty-calorie “treats and drinks”. Try not to over-indulge. Have smaller portions of your favourites and eat slowly. Before heading to a party, have a healthy snack since skipping a meal or arriving hungry could set you up to make poor food choices.
So this holiday season, be mindful of the demands you are placing upon yourself and others and know that it is okay to say no. The holiday season is a time to be merry and enjoy spending time with friends and family.