Holiday Survival Guide: Managing Stress
I am a recovering holiday stress addict. I loved the surge of adrenaline energy as I rushed from one holiday activity to another. Multitasking like a junkie on speed, I could hang the antique crystal angel ornament on the tree, wrap a holiday book to have on hand in case friends showed up with a gift, and whip the mashed potatoes, all without taking a breath.
During my highs, my brain was receiving pleasure signals.
During my highs, powerful hormones were being released throughout my body, elevating blood pressure, inflaming organs, metabolic processes, emotions and leaving my nerves raw.
During my highs, glucose was being driven up to my brain and into my muscles.
I loved being "crazy busy."
One of my biggest all-time meltdowns was during the Thanksgiving holiday (Click for YouTube comic relief).
Arriving home after the Turkey Trot, an annual race where fools like me decide to compete or amusingly run with other fools in conditions more frigid than the North Pole, I collapsed on the kitchen floor in a warm pool of tears.
Exhausted from the race, exhausted from entertaining out of town guests, and exhausted from dealing with bickering adult children -- Is that an oxymoron? -- I succumbed to stress in a way that was very uncharacteristic for me and frightening to my family and friends -- emotionally breaking down on the floor of my kitchen.
We all laugh about it now -- "Remember that Thanksgiving when Mom threw a hissy fit and blamed it on the turkey causing salmonella poisoning? Ha ha ha!" -- but I learned a lot from that hissy fit.
No. 1: With the current economic downturn, we are all feeling the weight of the recession. Although I'm not a fan of the B word -- budget -- plan a budget and then stick to it. Before you go shopping, establish how much money you can afford to spend on gifts and be sure to stick to your budget. Overspending could add emotional and financial stress. Instead of overspending, try these tips:
- Donate to a charity in someone's name.
- Give homemade gifts.
- Start a family gift exchange.
No. 2: Maintain your healthy habits. The holidays are a time for family and celebration, but too much celebrating results in stress.
- Eat a handful of nuts, which is a high protein snack, before attending a party so that you don't overindulge on eggnog, cheese, or holiday cookies.
- Follow your normal bedtime schedule.
- Continue exercising.
- Spend some time by yourself. Find a quiet place to unwind, even if it's only for a few minutes of solitude.
- Take a walk.
- Listen to music.
- Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring an inner sense of calm. Learn to breathe and say, "With each breath, I now relax."
No. 3: Perfection is for Holiday movies.
- Accept imperfections in yourself and in others.
- Don't try to change others, especially during the holidays.
- Accept your friends and family as they are.
- Remember, everyone can find the holidays stressful. If others get upset, practice patience and understanding.
If feelings of sadness, anxiety, or depression is overwhelming you or lasts after the holidays, seek professional help.
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