Cutting back on holiday stress

Halen Doughty

The holidays are on their way, bringing with them the added stress of shopping, hosting elaborate feasts, and visiting family. For many of us life is stressful enough as it is, and the holiday hype can add to that mental strain. With all the holiday madness on top our normal day to day activities, it's easy to let this time of year get the best of us.

I'll be hosting my first family Thanksgiving this year. Needless to say, I'm kind of freaking out. The perfectionist in me wants everything to go off without a hitch, but the realist in me knows that's not likely to happen. As I'm attempting to come to terms with that, I've been looking into ways to reduce holiday stress. I'd like to share some of my favorite tips from my research.

One of the most difficult things for me during this time is not obsessing over making everything perfect. Trying to make sure things run smoothly can take away from the overall holiday experience. I don't want to miss time with my family because I'm working to hard on trying to make things just right. Experts recommend finding ways to relax and make getting ready for the special day as fun as possible since laughter can reduce stress.

Of course there's tons of things that need to be done before the holidays arrive. Between shopping for gifts, wrapping presents, and cooking holiday meals, it's easy to find ourselves lost in the mix. Psychologists recommend cutting back as many tasks as possible and only taking on the essentials. Saying no to at least one thing can help us better take care of ourselves and avoid the headache that comes with overburdening ourselves.

Sticking to our normal routine can be a lifesaver as experts say familiarity helps reduce stress as well. Don't forego your own health during the holidays by sacrificing workouts, meals, and things you enjoy doing. Exercise has been proven to improve mood, and eating breakfast can help you focus throughout the day. Life goes on, even during the busy holiday season.

Mental health professionals say the holiday season is a great time to put down the devices. Constant cell phone alerts keep our adrenaline levels elevated, which contributes to stress, especially in women. Going tech-free can help cut back on that stress and give us more time to focus on friends and family.

During stressful times, it's important to remain positive. Negative thinking can trigger the body's stress response. By focusing on the good rather than the bad, we can better cope with the unexpected challenges the season tends to throw at us.

The moral of the story is to slow down and take it easy. Pick and choose what needs to be done and don't let things pile up. Most of all, enjoy it. The holidays are supposed to be fun so don't let the stress of pulling it off make the time less enjoyable. After all, they're supposed to be "Happy Holidays."

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