Scene of snow with snowman made out of pinecone on right side of frame

Tips to Minimize Holiday Stress

By Doug Bennett, Staff Writer

We all know the feeling. Summer ends, and the days feel shorter. Leftover Halloween candy is barely gone, and stress begins to build. Holiday party invitations stack up. Roads, parking lots, and shopping aisles are jammed. Gift ideas feel tired and unoriginal. And, the checking account is running empty.

The winter holiday season can really take its toll on everyone. It’s time to turn the tables and recapture the joy with a few simple strategies to help minimize holiday stress.

Stress-Busting Tips That Will Keep You Cool, Calm, and Collected

Service before self: Don't allow this holiday season to become another vague, generic memory filled with more material goods and debt that no one needs or wants. Embrace new traditions and set this holiday season apart by volunteering with those you love to help others who are less fortunate. This will help make the world a better place while also building new memories that you and your family/friends will look back on with fondness.

Stay aware of stress: Remind yourself throughout the day to take deep breaths, exhale long and slow, and count to ten anytime you feel stress levels rising. Try it—it really works!

Tip: Place post-it notes anywhere you tend to experience stress—phones, steering wheels, doorways, computer screens—as reminders to keep things in perspective.  With a little practice and consistency, this technique will go a long way toward helping you manage stress during the holiday season and throughout the rest of the year.

Maintain your foundation: Remain vigilant about staying on track with diet, exercise, and sleep.

-       Get routine exercise, even if it’s just a ten-minute walk with the dog each day. If you can’t make it to the gym, get up off the couch and get moving. Consistency is more important than intensity or time spent exercising. 

-       Protect your mind and body with the restorative benefits of sleep by going to bed and waking at the same time each day. Again, consistency is key. 

-       Eat a healthy, balanced Mediterranean-style diet. There are many fad diets that will help jumpstart weight loss goals, but Mediterranean-style diets are tried and true for the long haul.

Tip: Try not to eat more than the equivalent volume of a fistful of food during each meal and eat more frequently throughout the day.  Six small portions are better than three full plates of food. This will help control spikes in blood sugar and enable your body to burn calories more efficiently throughout the day. If someone gives you a dozen cookies, try one and give the rest away.

Shop online: If gift-giving brings you more stress than joy during the holiday season, shopping online will go a long way toward alleviating the added stress. These days just about anything can be purchased from the cozy comfort of your own couch. Most retailers have streamlined the process, making it easier and more efficient than shopping at the mall. Shipping is often included in the price, and return processes are simple and straightforward.

Tip: Be sure to shop online only with reputable companies that employ best practices for protecting your sensitive credit card information.

Virtual visits: With winter weather, flights are often delayed or cancelled, roads are snarled with traffic, and
icy sidewalks can be treacherous. Avoid all of that stress and still get to see and hear your loved ones by taking advantage of technology. Novel video chat apps like Facetime and Skype enable you to connect with family and friends at the touch of a button—just like something right out of the Jetsons!

If you were an early adapter and found these apps to be clumsy when they first emerged years ago, try them again. The technology has improved in recent years, and the apps really can help eliminate the stress from feeling like you need to be in ten different places at the same time. 

Tip: Avoid last-minute headaches by scheduling your “virtual visits” in advance and ensuring others have the same app and latest version already installed on their computer or phone.

Pull the escape hatch: Traveling over the holidays to warmer, sunnier destinations can really liberate you—at least temporarily—from the zaniness of extra obligations and associated stress we often feel at home. Better yet, make it a volunteer vacation so you can escape seasonal stress while also helping make the world a better place.

Now sit back, bask in the warm glow of holiday cheer, and savor the true blessings and joys of the holiday season! And, don't be afraid to reach out to your recruiter for some encouragement. While the holiday season can be stressful, know that the work you do in healthcare facilities across the country is the type of giving that never goes out of style.

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