Tips for managing your holiday stress

BY KAREN GALLAGHER

My children don’t come right out and call me Scrooge… and I can’t say I hate the holidays, that is a strong word, but I don’t like parts of the rigmarole.

In order to deal with stress, we must ask ourselves: what is stress? Dr. Trevor Powell, in his book, “Stress Free Living,” defines stress as, “when you see your environment as taxing or exceeding your ability to cope.” It can also be described as physical or mental tension which disrupts equilibrium.

Stress impacts our bodies, behaviors, and emotions. Physically, it may increase heart rate, cause high blood pressure, back aches, rashes, tense muscles, difficulty breathing, or swallowing. Health concerns related to stress may include: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), migraines, and diarrhea. Behavioral problems may occur from stress such as inactivity, excessive drinking or smoking, accident proneness, eating and/or sleeping problems. Emotional and cognitive issues include unprovoked fear or panic, apathy, nervousness, anxiety, moodiness, irritability, anger problems, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, frequent forgetfulness, and negative self-talk.

Stress may increase when there are circumstances which have been challenging for your family. Recent loss of a family member, job change, a move, physical illness or other tragedies typically increase grief during the holidays. The best advice for coping with this is to not avoid the problem. Whatever helps your family address the grief is helpful. Most importantly, don’t ignore it.

I think most of us can agree – we have holiday stress. It may not be a negative stress but may lead to a sense of being overwhelmed. There are techniques to help you keep your head above water.

The following are tips to keeping stress levels low this holiday season:

Delegate. Don’t be a martyr, ask for help (i.e., cooking, cleaning up or wrapping).

Speak the truth. Express your feelings to your family and friends as needed. For example, “I am feeling tired, overwhelmed or angry.”

Don’t overspend to please others. Stay within your budget. Do what is best for you.

Avoid perfectionism. Good enough is good enough. Stay realistic about your expectations.

Reframe the situation. Focus on what makes you grateful not on what went wrong. Stay positive.

Be assertive. Say no as needed to keep you sane. Set boundaries and make plans that are best for you.

Manage your time. Ask for help, avoid procrastination, and start early on planning, shopping and cooking. Set short-term goals and long-term goals for your prep.

Modify transitions. The meal can be help at a restaurant one year, travel to visit family and add some alone family time to the trip.

Set aside time for self-care. Make time for yourself. Step away from responsibilities to take care of yourself.

Source: Capital Area Women’s LifeStyle Magazine, November 2016