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5 Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress

December 08, 2015

Between Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s Eve, a lot happens the last two months of the year.

But amid all that holiday excitement, there’s also plenty of holiday stress. Why do most of us get edgy during the holidays? A 2014 Consumer Reports survey suggests that the list of holiday stressors is probably about as long as your child’s Christmas wish list. 68 percent of people surveyed said crowds and long lines were a source of aggravation, while 37 percent said gaining weight and getting into debt caused holiday stress. Other responses included shopping for gifts (28 percent), traveling (25 percent) and seeing certain relatives (24 percent). 23 percent of people even were annoyed by holiday music.

Aside from the emotional toll stress takes on us, it also affects our health. Chronic stress weakens your immune system and affects how your digestive system functions. If you’re dreading the holiday season because you know that stress will come along with it, give yourself the best gift possible and follow these five tips to avoid or reduce holiday stress altogether.

Tip # 1: It Pays to Plan Ahead

The holidays are filled with lots of expectations, especially when it comes to gift giving. Going shopping on major shopping days — no matter how good the deals are — is asking for trouble. Shop online and during off-peak hours when there are likely fewer crowds and a shorter wait. Better yet, ask your loved ones what they want so you can take some of the anxiety out of holiday shopping. You can save surprises for smaller items, such as their stocking stuffers.

Tip # 2: Get Moving to Boost Your Mood

A lot of people experience a change in mood during the holiday season because of cabin fever. You’re stuck inside because the sun goes down at 6 p.m. Plus, in some areas of the country it’s too cold to go outside and do anything productive. Here in Central Florida, we’re really lucky to have great year-round weather. Take advantage of this and go for a walk or hike when the sun is still out. Do this on your lunch break or right after work. If you’re strapped for time, get the family together during the weekend and enjoy a fun fall or winter outing, like going to pick a Christmas tree, going to the park or your local farmers market or doing some indoor ice skating.

Tip # 3: Watch What You Eat

This is easier said than done, especially because we all tend to overindulge during the holidays. If you’re going to a holiday party, have a snack beforehand so you don’t overeat. Stick to dry wine and spritzers rather than calorie-rich, high-sugar cocktails. Fatty foods and desserts contain a lot of empty calories that don’t give you energy, so replace some holiday indulgences with mood-boosting foods that still satisfy your sweet tooth, like dark-chocolate covered nuts or berries with a spoonful of yogurt and granola. As I mentioned before, stay active and get moving. Exercise increases serotonin levels in the body, which helps stabilize your mood — something we all need during the stressful holiday season.

Tip # 4: Only Take on What You Can Handle

During the holidays, we feel an obligation to say yes to every party invite, school request or ask from friends and family. But during the holidays, there’s nothing wrong with saying no. Take a look at your to-do list or your event calendar and prioritize what’s important. Your colleague probably will understand if you can’t make it to her holiday party or if you have to leave early, but you may not be able to get out of the annual holiday gala for your spouse’s company. Same goes for volunteering to make dozens of homemade cookies for your children’s bake sale or for raising your hand to cook an entire holiday meal from scratch (you can always pick up cookies at your local bakery or throw a potluck dinner instead). During the holidays we often to overextend ourselves, so only say yes to what will bring you joy and no to what will cause you stress.

Tip # 5: Watch Your Budget

The average American will spend $700 on Christmas gifts. While it’s great to see the smiles on your loved one’s faces, it often comes at a cost if you overspend. Money is one of the biggest stress inducers — and not just during the holidays. Create a holiday shopping budget that you know you can maintain. Consider budget-friendly holiday gifts that will mean something to your friends and family, whether it be an item you’ve handmade or something that has a lot of sentimental value, like a photo album, scrapbook or family heirloom.

The holidays should be a joyous time with family and friends, not an anxiety-ridden two months. Every one of us will experience holiday stress at some point, but the key to coping with it is to plan ahead and prioritize. Doing so will help you truly enjoy the holidays.

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