Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know: To Relieve Holiday Pressure and Maintain Healthy Balance

By Dr. Nina Radcliff

For many, the holiday season is filled with gift shopping, decorating, special family and work events, guests and traveling. And did I mention….stress? We have heard this over time that in addition to the stressors of daily life, the added responsibilities and commitments that are innate to the holiday season can, frankly, add even more stressful.  The good news is that there are a number of ways we can take charge, manage our stress and yes, be merry with “comfort and joy.” Here are some ways to relieve holiday pressure and maintain balance.

Planning is key.  Start by creating a “to-do” list and calendar to track all  events (shopping, wrapping, baking, decorating, school concert, office holiday dinner and please include some time to “enjoy” relaxing at home this holiday). Time is our most important commodity. Therefore, we must use it wisely.  Keep the list and calendar out in the open to help you and yours track the events. And make sure to be discriminating and rank things-to-do by “has to,” “nice to,” “does not need to” be done. Don’t stress if you do not get past what “has to” be done.  Setting realistic goals will help to reduce the circuit overload.

Bah-humbug (Toxic Tales) & Ho-Ho-Ho (Olive Branches).  Holiday gatherings may put us with some people we avoid throughout the year. And too while family times are to be joyous – that just isn’t always so as family dynamics can be complicated. Also, holiday stresses can make it harder to deal with that “someone” – or those “traditions” (i.e. making that recipe exactly like “grandma’s” even though you felt it was inedible or, being “there” at a certain time because it is always “the way it has been done”).  If it is a sticking point, experts suggest making a list of reasons “we should” and “shouldn’t” engage in these events.  Perhaps there is another approach.

Whatever, the key is to be conscious about what you’re doing.  And remember the power of extending olive branches; to pace yourself (you may not have to stay for 4 hours or all 3 days); and too, the courage to maintain safe boundaries for a healthy celebration.

Stick to a budget. Creating a winter wonderland without depleting our bank accounts or maxing out credit cards may seem challenging. Research shows the best way to manage holiday spending is by creating a budget and staying committed to it. When it comes to shopping for presents, think outside the “gift” box. The best presents are not the most expensive, but the most thoughtful.

Aromatherapies.  Research has confirmed that lavender produces slight calming, soothing, and sedative effects when its scent is inhaled. While out shopping, consider scheduling an aromatherapy massage.  Or, mix some vanilla extract in our morning coffee, light a scented candle of vanilla or lavender, add some essential oils to our bath — or dap a small amount of on our linens.

Exercise. Don’t wait for the New Years to make this part of your “need to-do” list. Start now. Not only is breaking out a sweat good for our heart and can keep those inches off of our waistline, studies have shown that it can also boost our mood for up to 12 hours – and help us get good sleep!

Meditate. Meditation is a rich moment or collection of moments that we escape the noise and demands of our world to focus fully in the wonder of stillness and a knowing. In addition, research has shown that it can change brain waves, the way our brain cells make connections, actual structures (thickening some areas while making others less dense), and the molecules that send signals (neurotransmitters).

Laugh out loud. Psychologically, having a good sense of humor and laughing may permit us to have a better perspective on things by seeing situations in a “more realistic and less threatening light.” Physically, laughter can put a damper on the production of stress hormones—cortisol and epinephrine. And by doing so, it can help us to relax. Additionally, studies have shown that a good LOL or ROFL—texting slang for “laugh out loud” or “rolling on the floor laughing”—can relax our muscles for up to 45 minutes after.

As we step into this year’s holiday season, let’s add to the heart of our planning…to appreciate the moments.  We live in an age of distractions with demanding deadlines – and even more so during the holidays with added commitments – but life still unfolds in the present.  With some planning, it is in the “now” that we can maintain balance and find added joys.  I recently read a wise statement that one of life’s sharpest paradoxes is that our brightest future hinges on our ability to pay attention to the present. To be in the now–the present–Bill Keane crafted the beloved truth that is shared within many treasured sentiments, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, which is why we call it the present.” So from my home to yours…sending treasured sentiments – with bah-humbugs to stress! Enjoy your holidays. Savor your “presents.”



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