Managing stress during the holidays

Welcome to the holiday season — that whirlwind of gift-giving, holiday parties and activities galore!

While this season is meant to bring feelings of love and cheer, it’s also a source of stress for many.

In fact, according to a poll conducted on About.com, more than 80 per cent of us find the holiday season to be ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ stressful — that ranks navigating the holidays right up there with asking for a raise!

What is it that has us all so hot and bothered?

Doing too much
All things in moderation, as the saying goes. The problem with the holiday season is that we often experience too much of a good thing. Too much stress has a negative impact on our health, both mental and physical. Too many activities, even if they are fun activities, can culminate in too much holiday stress and leave us feeling frazzled, rather than fulfilled.

Eating, drinking and spending too much

An overabundance of parties and gift-giving occasions lead many people to eat, drink, and be merry — often to excess. The temptation to overindulge in spending, rich desserts or alcohol can cause many people the lasting stress of dealing with consequences that can linger long after the season is over.

Here are some tips you can try to help reduce holiday stress so that it remains at a positive level, rather than an overwhelming one:

Set your priorities
Before you get overwhelmed by too many activities, it’s important to decide what traditions offer the most positive impact and eliminate superfluous activities. For example, if you usually become overwhelmed by a flurry of baking, carolling, shopping, sending cards, visiting relatives and other activities that leave you exhausted by January, you may want to examine your priorities, pick a few favourite activities and really enjoy them, while skipping the rest.

Cut corners
If you can’t fathom the idea of skipping out on sending cards, baking, seeing people, and doing all of the stuff that usually runs you ragged, you may do better including all of these activities in your schedule, but on a smaller scale.

Set a schedule
Putting your plans on paper can show you, in black and white, how realistic they are. If you find a time management planner and fill in the hours with your scheduled activities, being realistic and including driving time and down time, you will be able to see if you’re trying to pack in too much. Start with your highest priorities, so you will be able to eliminate the less important activities.

Breathe!
This sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes we forget to take deep breaths and really give our bodies the oxygen we need. It’s great if you can take ten minutes by yourself and do some breathing meditation but merely stopping to take a few deep, cleansing breaths can reduce your level of negative stress in a matter of minutes, too. If you visualize that you are breathing in serenity and breathing out stress, you will find the positive effects of this exercise to be even more pronounced.

With a little planning and a few minor but significant changes, this holiday season can bring the love and joy it was meant to bring, and leave you feeling fulfilled rather than drained.

Happy Holidays!

Maureen Cubbon is the manager of marketing, communications and health programs for Generali Worldwide

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