Christmas is now less than two weeks away. How many times have you been asked this week, "Are you ready for Christmas?" In November, we start making plans for everything we have to do, and then reality sets in. Now with less than 12 days to go, we may need to be realistic about what we can accomplish. Maybe we don't need to do all of that baking, shopping, wrapping, card sending and cooking we had originally wanted to do. Prioritizing what you need to do, and creating a plan can reduce some of your holiday stress.
Signs of stress include muscle tension, headaches, fatigue, skin outbreaks, digestive problems, breathing difficulties and rapid heart rate. Additional symptoms include feeling overwhelmed, irritable, moody or restless, and having difficulty concentrating or trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. During the holidays, festivities, families, and finances are common causes of stress. It is important to be aware of what causes you stress, so you can create a plan to reduce stressful situations.
Families gather to celebrate, kids are home from school, and out of town guests come to visit. Your routine is disrupted, and you may go out of your way to accommodate everyone - often at the expense of fulfilling your own needs. When experiencing stress, spend quiet time alone relaxing: take a nap, take a bath, listen to music, watch a movie, read, play a game or count your blessings. Taking some time for yourself will help recharge you and give you more energy to deal with stressors as they arise.
Take time out to enjoy the season. Getting your family involved in helping accomplish your tasks will build lasting memories for you and your children. While working together as a family talk about family traditions you remember, and create new traditions that you pass down to your children. Teaching children about the importance of helping others is a great theme for this holiday season. Step out and help a neighbor shovel their sidewalk, volunteer to help organizations pack holiday meals and gifts, walk a neighbor's dog or babysit for a friend. None of these things cost any money.
Finally, to help minimize holiday stress, get enough sleep, eat healthy, exercise, limit alcohol consumption and drink plenty of water. Be realistic about what you can do, and ask for help. May your holidays be joyous, and stress-free. Or at least less stressful.
Editor's note: Taryn Mack is Institute director at Copper Country Mental Health.