7 tips to manage stress – and the best – of the holiday season
Holiday stress takes on a whole new meaning this year.
You might face the standard holiday stressors – too much to do and too many people to please. Then there are stressors added by COVID-19 – perhaps fear of the illness, sadness from isolation and concerns about family and friends.
In fact, 64% of people admit they suffer from some degree of holiday blues, according to a study published in the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Nearly 25% say the stress and blues affect them a lot.
So it’s time to get ahead of the stress and work toward enjoying the best of the holiday season.
Here are seven ways to manage stress and enjoy the holiday season.
1. Set the right expectation
Stress often comes from having higher expectations of ourselves and others this time of year. Then when you or others fall short, you get frustrated.
Take time now to think about the traditions and rituals you love – and those that actually stress you. Then recognize it’s OK to adapt, and hold on to only what’s mentally and physically healthy for you.
2. Stick to your schedule
The holiday season is like no other. Preparations and events – or conversely, angst because you don’t have any – can wreck your normal eating and sleeping cycles. Than can cause fatigue and possibly other health issues.
So try to stick to your normal sleeping, waking, eating and active hour habits to avoid more stress.
3. Call in help
If you try to do it all – from cooking and cleaning to hosting and wrapping – stop! It’s time to do a little less, especially with the added concerns over the coronavirus. Consider scaling back on everything you do, including the number of people you’re around and events you attend.
And if you insist on continuing some of the usual cheer – after all, we still want the holidays to feel like the holidays – ask a trusted, safe family member to help bake the cookies, set up decorations, prepare a meal, etc. Bonus: You’ll likely enjoy the one-on-one time with the loved one.
4. Plan ahead for health and safety
If you’re visiting loved ones throughout the holiday season, plan ahead to stay healthy and safe. Three things to consider:
- Diet. Talk with your hosts about special dietary needs you might have so they’re prepared, or plan to take what you need and prefer. Also, enjoy an occasional treat, but try to avoid the over indulgence that often comes with holiday festivities.
- Safety. Visiting unfamiliar – and even familiar – places poses some hidden hazards. Be aware of things such as throw rugs, door mats, thresholds in doorways, plus cords or loose items. All pose fall risks. Turn on lights before entering rooms or hallways to be fully aware of any potential fall hazards.
- Weather. Go prepared for changing weather conditions in December and January. Layer clothing to stay comfortable indoors. And, if you’ll be outdoors, have hats, gloves, boots and an extra layer handy.
5. Step away
If you find yourself getting overwhelmed by holiday stress – or just want to prevent it – plan effective ways to step away from it all. Pick a favorite activity and know when you can turn to it and away from holiday stress.
For instance, some people volunteer, and there are lots of organizations that can use help (even from the comfort of your home) this time of year. Get some exercise in ways that are most comfortable and safe for you. Step outside to soak in nature for a safe walk. What’s most important is you choose your “step back” activity ahead of time and know how, where and when you can do it.
6. Keep a list
Many older adults find relief in staying organized throughout the holiday season. Pull together a list of what you want and need to accomplish weekly and daily – but don’t hold yourself strictly to it. Take care of the top priorities first, marking off tasks as you do them.
Most importantly, add things that make you happy to the list so they’re part of the accomplishments – perhaps a quiet cup of tea in the afternoon, morning exercise or a favorite TV show.
7. Prepare to enjoy the time together
You can alleviate some stress by focusing on the things that make you happy – the time spent with loved ones, traditions or the spirituality of the season.
You might invite family members across generations to join in a favorite board or card game. Or ask a younger generation to help you sort through photos or memorabilia from past holiday, which often leads to questions that spark talk about great memories.
And If you aren’t actually together, you can also play some games virtually. Here are ideas to try with family and friends through virtual chat sessions such as Zoom.
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