Holiday stress? Give yourself a break!

The overwhelming rush in the final countdown to the holidays has begun. And from the frenzied hum throughout the Treasure Valley and especially near its shopping malls, it sounds like we’re all caught up in it. It’s time to take a minute to consider all of the simple things you can do for yourself to reduce stress and enjoy the holidays.

If you’ve made it a goal to eat healthy, the holidays can be challenging, if not impossible. Should you stick to your goal, or surrender and start again in January?

Trying to eat healthy food at this time of year can challenge anyone’s fortitude — we’re going to parties and eating out more and have less control over what is being served. Generally, you should watch your portion sizes and eat lots of fruits and vegetables. But it IS the holidays, so you should allow yourself to splurge a little bit, especially for your favorites. Just don’t overdo it. 

Holiday gatherings also tend to have alcohol… and we know how that can add to stress and conflict. Any tips?

If you must have a drink, try not to overdo it. Limit the number of drinks you have, and if you exceed that limit and become drunk, please don’t drive home. Have a designated sober driver, or call a taxi. Generally, moderate drinking is up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. As adults, we should know our limits. Water, hot cider, tea or hot chocolate are always good choices as well, and they won’t leave you with a hangover.

So if I’m stressed, eating comfort food or drinking alcohol is not really the way to deal with it. What else can I do to de-stress?

Physical activity – even just a walk around the block – is a great way to blow off steam. Many studies have shown that people who exercise regularly reduce their stress, ward off anxiety and feelings of depression, and sleep better. And we all know the physical benefits of regular exercise. So take daily walks or set a time for the gym that is doable most days. It’ll help you have the energy and mental fortitude you need for the holidays.

Other tips for dealing with stress?

Take a deep breath and let yourself off the hook. Christmas only comes around once a year. Try to maintain at least a semi-regular schedule for sleeping, eating and exercising. Cookies, fancy meals and the best gifts in the world don’t matter if you’re too sick or stressed to enjoy them with your family and friends. Focus on the positive aspects of your holiday celebrations and accept the things you can’t control, like how fast traffic is moving or how long the line is for Santa. Set limits on what you will do – no time for Christmas cards this year? Send them out at Easter instead. Or just skip them entirely. It’ll be OK.

Holidays are difficult for everyone, but if someone is really feeling like they are more stressed or depressed than normal, what are some options?

If you are struggling, please ask for help from a trusted relative or friend. Resources also are available by calling the Idaho Careline at 2-1-1, or Health and Welfare’s mental health crisis lines in each region. If you have thoughts of hurting yourself, please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.


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