I made my first Christmas shopping foray this morning. I went early, shopped briefly and successfully found what I set out to buy, so I'm riding that early wave of holiday euphoria. But I know that will soon be tempered by all that remains to be done and the setbacks that can arise on the way to happy and relaxing holidays.
My husband and friends often tell me not to do so much—just to relax and take it easy. But, I know—as my mother and grandmothers before me knew—that in most families, if the mom doesn't work really hard, the holiday traditions will fall by the wayside. Someone has to clean and decorate the house, buy and wrap the gifts and plan and cook the meals. And, yes, I do try every year to start a little earlier, involve my husband and kids a little more and focus only on the things that matter to me and my family.
Still, there's a lot to do. So these tips from the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Miami, Florida, on how to sidestep holiday stress came as a welcome reminder to try to keep my stress levels in check as I hurry and scurry around getting ready for the holidays:
- Step around stress. Not all stress is bad. However, chronic and repetitive stress can hurt your mental and physical health and lead to larger problems, such as heart disease. Whenever possible, step around stressful circumstances. If decorating stresses you, either minimize what you do or ask for help. If tardiness stresses you, leave extra time to get where you're going. If you know spending time with a certain person causes stress, try cutting back on the amount of time you spend with that person. When you can't avoid stressful circumstances, work on responding or reacting without getting worked up.
- Become emotionally nourishing. Your outlook on life is closely tied to your physical health. Emotionally nourishing people inspire joy in those around them, so find the ingredients that make you emotionally enriched, such as love, humor, optimism and friendship, and focus on those things, especially during stressful times. Just as stress, anger and isolation accelerate heart disease, affection, optimism and enjoyment of life retard it. So remember this holiday season to surround yourself with humorous, friendly, loving people—and try to be one of those people.
- Start small. Do something healthy for yourself. It could be walking a lap through the mall before you start shopping or eating an apple to curb your appetite before you go to a party. Whether at work or at home, remember to stretch periodically and roll your head gently. Trade shoulder rubs with a coworker or friend (even your kids or partner will sometimes do this). These small treats will give you a much-deserved break and an extra burst of energy. It may not feel like a huge stress-buster, but small steps lead to bigger ones, and before you know it you'll be sitting in front of the fire sipping a cup of tea and enjoying the holidays.