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Stress Management

Tips for Avoiding Holiday Stress

Thanksgiving may be over, but the holiday season is just beginning. With it can come feelings of depression and stress as a result of people’s high expectations about the season.

“The holidays bring out the blahs in many people, especially those who recently lost a loved one or are separated from their children,” said Dr. Thomas Simmer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan vice president and corporate medical director.

But these feelings aren’t limited to people separated from loved ones, Simmer added: “It can be brought on by the stresses of going over-budget on gifts, and trying to complete all the tasks we have added to our schedules because of the holiday.”

Early warning signs for holiday depression include having a shorter temper than normal, sleep pattern disruption, losing interest in activities you enjoy, and overreacting to minor annoyances.

In addition to exercising, Simmer suggests, you can reduce your anxiety and depression level by trying some of the following:

— Realize the holiday stress level is real.

— Surround oneself with a supportive network of family members and friends.

— Accept family members for the way they are. They aren’t about to change just because it’s the holidays.

— Begin new traditions, such as creating a memorial holiday stocking, to remember those who have passed away.

— Delegate chores and responsibilities. This is the ‘90s. No one has time to do everything, but almost everyone has time to do something.

— Set a budget and stick to it.

— Use moderation when engaged in shopping, eating or drinking. Find a recipe for a non-alcoholic beverage for your holiday gathering.

— Remember you are not alone.

Some other tips, courtesy of Aruni Nan Futuronsky, the Retreat & Renewal program director at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, Lenox, Mass., include:

  • Notice how your body feels throughout the day and in different situations.

  • Are you holding your breath or clenching your jaw? Noticing the physiological markers of stress is the first step to alleviating it.

  • Cultivate the habit of loosening up your body and shaking off tension. Whether you are in an airplane or shopping mall, you can shrug your shoulders, give yourself a hug, tuck your chin to your chest or simply yawn to release tension in your upper body.

  • Can’t resist holiday goodies? Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day to offset the effects of sugar, alcohol, caffeine and turkey with all the trimmings.

  • A few deep, slow breaths go a long way to helping your body unwind and to clear your mind. Set a timer or post sticky notes on your computer monitor as a reminder to breathe deeply at least three times a day. Transcend tension during traffic and commutes by taking a few deep breaths, making sure to exhale completely.

  • Never mind the errands, put yourself into “time out.” Just five to 15 minutes of sitting quietly or stretching out on your bed will do wonders for your mood. Consider making at least one area of your home off limits to anyone but you.

An expanded list of holiday stress tips is available at www.kripalu.org.Copyright 1999 Health Resources Publishing


© 2001 Health Resources Publishing