The holidays are coming. How much time will you spend on your holiday activities?
According to surveys, Americans spend an average of 42 hours a year shopping, wrapping gifts and attending parties. That’s a full work week of holiday cheer, often squeezed into already jam-packed schedules. It’s no wonder so many of us get stressed out this time of year.
According to Mental Health America, money concerns and chaotic schedules are the top two causes of holiday stress. Parents typically experience it more than other groups and women tend to feel it more than men. During this time, 41 percent of women use food and 28 percent use alcohol to alleviate their stress, which can put their health at risk.
The good news is that there are plenty of Portland health care resources to help manage stress and stay healthy during the holidays. For starters, here are 10 tips to help you cope:
- Acknowledge your stress level. Trying to suppress your stress is like trying to hold a lid on boiling pot; the pressure just continues to mount. By acknowledging and expressing how you feel, you can transform it.
- Let things go. There’s a lot of pressure to make the holidays perfect. Over the years, traditions can grow and multiply, leading to more preparation and less time for decompressing. You don’t have to do it all. Instead, choose a few things that matter most to you and let the rest drop.
- Smell some citrus. Researchers have discovered that the scent of lemon or orange can increase your levels of the mood-influencing hormone norepinephrine, which amplifies feelings of well-being. Citrus-scented soaps, essential oils, candles, and simmering a mixture of lemons, cloves, and rosemary on the stovetop can make a big difference when you find yourself feeling tense.
- Walk it off. A brisk, 30-minute walk provides a repetitive rhythm that soothes your brain, relieves anxiety and helps you sleep. In fact, exercise of any kind is a proven way to allay stress. The busier things become, the more important it is to make time for physical activity, even if it’s just a short walk.
- Say no. When the holiday invitations start rolling in, it’s tempting to accept them all. Activities that sound like fun ahead of time can end up compounding your stress when you suddenly find yourself with too many things to do and not enough time to do them. Protect your sanity by accepting the invitations you find most appealing and kindly declining the rest.
- Unplug. The constant connectivity of our mobile devices can make it difficult to stop and unwind. Try choosing one day a week to turn off your devices—including the TV and ignore emails. Instead, use the time to meditate, read a book, take a bath, spend face-to-face time with loved ones or engage in any activity that helps you de-stress.
- Do something nice for someone. During the holiday season, it’s all too easy for the act of giving to start feeling like a chore. In the midst of all the shopping and other obligations, take time for small acts of kindness, which can be as beneficial for you as the recipient. It can be as simple as paying a compliment or expressing gratitude toward someone you appreciate.
- Maintain your routine. When our schedules become too crowded, routines are often the first thing to go. During stressful times, eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep becomes more important than ever. Routines that give you joy or pleasure should also get a top spot on your priority list.
- Laugh often. Laughter reduces stress hormones, which relieves anxiety and boosts your immune system. Keep your sense of humor as much as possible during the holiday rush and laugh whenever you get the chance.
- Ask for help. You don’t have to do everything yourself. If you’re feeling overloaded, start delegating. Asking for help is often one of the most empowering things you can do and receiving it can go a long way toward relieving stress.
There’s no need to let stress kill your holiday joy. Try out these tips and see how you feel—and don’t forget to take advantage of all the Portland health care resources at your disposal to help you stay healthy throughout the holiday season.