Guest Author - Carolyn Chambers Clark, RN, EdD
Who's bothered by holiday stress?
Millions of people are stressed during the holidays. There is a never-ending list of things to accomplish. It's easy to get worked up over an accumulation of tasks like gift buying and wrapping, writing and mailing cards, baking, and other activities surrounding the holidays. If the holidays are stressful for you, you're not alone.
Assess your holiday stress
To reduce stress, find out the source of your tension. Once you know that, you can start to plan ahead and reduce stress.
The good news is you don't have to let stress ruin your holidays. Try to pinpoint what you're anxious about. Some questions to ask are...
*Are I feeling stressed because I'm not going to be able to fulfill my children's gift requests?
*Am I wrangling with my partner over holiday expenses?
*Am I feeling left out because my friends are enjoying the season and I'm not?
*Am I worried about not having enough energy or gaining weight over the holidays?
What to do once you've assessed your sources of stress
*Remember that the holidays aren't really about expensive gifts and teach your children that the love, family gatherings and remembrances of the past are the real basis of holidays. By teaching your children this fact, you will not be teaching them that they can have whatever they want and someone else will provide it. This will stand them in good stead for their entire lives. Don't buy into their guilt trips about how so-and-so's parents are giving them the gift or if you really loved them, you'd get them a specific gift. Some experts believe that parenting works best when you provide what they need and help them find a way to get what they want. If they want something and you can't provide it, work out a way for them to get it through their own efforts. Evaluate whether they want the gift just because ads on TV or their friends are promoting the idea. Begin to teach your children to develop their own sense of value and gift-giving. The best gifts are usually home made. They include an investment of the gift-giver. I remember one year I wanted a pony, but I didn't get it. Instead, my mother made me a stuffed doll that was my size, with yellow yarn hair, a pinafore and a great smile. I loved that doll and if it hadn't been lost in a move, I'd have given it to my daughters. I used to dance with that doll and remember my mother huddled over her sewing machine, making my gift.
*Call a truce with your partner and children and talk to each other about what's really important and how you can provide the love and joy the holidays are about.
*Don't allow yourself to feel left out of the holiday spirit. Find something that touches you deeply, be it music, caroling, holiday decorations or something else. If you're depressed, consider talking with a psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner about your feelings. Find out how to sort them out and what to do to reduce depressive feelings. One of the best way to lift depression is to volunteer to help someone else. Soup kitchens, hospitals, nursing homes and other settings need volunteers during the holiday season. Going yourself, or better yet with your family, to one of these settings on or before the holiday can bring you a deep feeling of giving of yourself that can be joyous and better than any antidepressant.
*If you're worried about not having enough energy or gaining weight over the holidays, eat a small nutritious snack (fruit, a handful of nuts and seeds work well), and drink a big glass of water before going out for a meal or party or eating your own cooking. Although you may associate fatty and sugary delights with energy, they actually deplete you of energy and stress your adrenal glands.
To get more energy for all the holiday events, to keep stress levels down, eat simple, an apple instead of a piece of apple pie, focus on other fruits and vegetables that are naturally sweet and good for you (orange and yellow squash, pumpkin, blue and purple grapes, brown pears,
Remember to enjoy talking to people instead of refilling your plate with food.
*Decide which things about the holidays you have control over and concentrate on them. Try
not to worry about things out of your control.
*Problem solve with people around you. Ask them to help you alleviate stress.
*Exercise. A few extra minutes of exercise a day can benefit your overall health and give you extra energy.
*Meditate, or take a class in relaxation and stretching techniques --like Tai Chi or Yoga. They can help you relax, build strength and stamina and help you forget about focusing on the holiday so much.
*Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages. They push out valuable vitamins and minerals (in your urine) that can help you stay calm and peaceful.
*Rest. Get eight hours of sleep each day. Set a timer in another room and lie down on the bed or floor for 15 minutes and listen to a relaxation tape or calming music. You'll be surprised how much more energetic and positive you feel when you get up.
*Get a massage. A massage can be beneficial for mind, body and spirit.
This article is for information only. For treatment, consult your health care provider.
For more information, click on my books below...they cover many topics and are listed in the following order: assertiveness, menopause, weight loss, self-care for 20 chronic conditions, integrating complementary procedures into traditional health care, encyclopedia of complementary health care practice, holistic nursing approaches to chronic conditions, group leadership, creating a climate for power learning, health & wellness promotion in communities, being a wellness practitioner