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Mid Coast Center for Community Health & Wellness Newsletter
December 2019
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12 Ways to Reduce Stress During the Holidays

Stress Around the Holidays

The holiday season is a time of shopping, gift giving, holiday parties, and commitments galore. While this season is meant to bring feelings of cheer, love, and connection, for many, it can be a time of sadness and stress.

Research shows that these feelings are quite prevalent. In fact, as many as 80% of people find the holiday season to be either ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ stressful. Stress, sadness, and depression can ruin your holidays and impact your wellbeing.

Here are some tips to help you reduce stress during this busy time of year:

  1. Address Stress Proactively: One of the most important strategies is to prevent stress in the first place. Whenever possible, be proactive rather than reactive. Eliminate unnecessary sources of stress from your life, and plan ahead so you can lessen the impact of stresses you cannot avoid.
  2. Set Realistic Priorities: One of the biggest problems with the holiday season is that we often overextend ourselves. Though fun, taking part in too many activities can lead to stress. Before you find yourself overwhelmed, determine which traditions offer the most positive experience for you. Eliminate other activities. For example, if you usually become overwhelmed by a flurry of commitments such as baking, shopping, or attending parties, you may wish to examine your priorities. Pick your favorites and enjoy them wholeheartedly.
  3. Learn to Say No: Over-committing when you are already spread thin can lead to feelings of resentment and frustration. People will understand that you cannot do everything. Focus on your needs and your limitations.
  4. Plan Ahead: Schedule specific days for shopping, baking, visiting, and other activities. Plan your menus and make shopping lists. Writing things down can help you keep your plans realistic. As a bonus, this will also help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients or gifts. While you are planning, schedule some time to take a quiet walk in nature if at all possible. Exercise and exposure to daylight can drastically reduce symptoms of depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
  5. Stick to a Budget: Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then, stick to your budget. You don’t buy happiness with gifts, especially if it results in more stress for you later. To help stick to your budget, consider giving homemade gifts, starting a simplified gift exchange, or donating to a worthy cause instead.
  6. Recognize Your Feelings: If you are feeling lonely due to a loss, acknowledge that it is normal to feel grief or sadness during the holiday season. Allow yourself to express your feelings of sadness. Do not try to force yourself to be happy.
  7. Connect with Others: If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out opportunities to be with people. Consider inviting friends to your home or attending community, religious, or other social events. These types of gatherings can offer companionship and support. Volunteering your time to help others is also a good way to lift your spirits and expand your friendships.
  8. Be Accepting: Set aside your differences and try to accept family and friends for who they are. Be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something does not turn out as planned. They may be feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
  9. Do Not Abandon Healthy Habits: If you work hard to be healthy throughout the year, do not let the holidays become a free-for-all. Participate in regular physical activity daily. Get plenty of sleep, and take time to breathe. Meditation and breathing exercises can keep you focused, clear your mind, and reduce stress.
  10. Keep Up Healthy Eating Routines: Eat healthy food low in sugar and saturated fats, including plenty of vegetables, fruits, and fiber. Enjoy a healthy snack before holiday parties so you eat fewer sweets, fatty foods, and alcoholic drinks. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.
  11. Make Time for Yourself: Spend 15 minutes alone, without distractions, to help refresh yourself. Try reading a book, knitting, going for a massage or pedicure, listening to your favorite music, or taking a walk.
  12. Seek Help if You Need It: Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself still feeling sad or depressed during the holiday season. If you notice that you feel hopeless, unable to sleep, or plagued by physical symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider.

Do not let stress ruin your holidays. Learn how to manage and prevent stress by recognizing and proactively addressing its triggers. Positive thinking, self-care, and planning will help you find joy. Remember: the simple things truly do make us all happiest.

Mindful Morning Mini Retreat

It is normal to experience stress in your daily life. How you choose to respond to that stress determines its impact on your overall health and wellbeing. One such approach for managing stress is the practice of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the awareness that arises when you intentionally pay attention to the present moment. This practice has been studied and determined therapeutic for a range of medical and psychological conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety, diabetes, depression, cancer, heart disease, and stress.

Try practicing mindfulness at our next Mindful Morning Mini Retreat on Saturday, December 14 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Cost is $45, and registration is required. Learn more and register at www.midcoasthealth.com/wellness/mindfulness.

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