The holidays can be a blast. There are the nightly, non-stop parties where you catch up with old friends or see colleagues in a different environment. You’ll also have excuses to entertain others by hosting dinner or cocktail parties. Shopping and visiting family is also usually on the docket.
But, eventually, the holidays — and their stress — can take their toll. That’s because the low-grade, chronic stress that people experience around the holidays can lead to behavioral and biochemical changes that can affect the body, according to Shawn M. Talbott, a nutritional biochemist. Don’t believe us?
Behavioural changes include exercising less, eating more “comfort foods”, and drinking or smoking more regularly. Biochemical changes increase stress hormones, suppressing the immune system, increasing blood pressure and cholesterol, and boosting appetite. Stress hormones can also reduce sex drive and cause depression, fatigue, and mental confusion. It sounds overwhelming, but don’t let stress get the best of you. Instead, here are our experts top 8 tips to keep you sane:
Enlist a Holiday Buddy
Maybe he or she can’t come to your out-of-state family gathering, but a holiday buddy can help you plan ahead and be realistic as to how much you can do, how many parties you attend, how much money you can afford to spend, and how you will maintain your exercise and eating habits. Check in with this person regularly, just like a workout buddy, to make sure that you’re keeping your promises to yourself, said Alan Allard a former psychotherapist.
During the holiday season, it’s easy to put your workout routine on the backburner. Don’t. A run or game of hoops can help release stress that often gets pent up, said social worker Christine M. Valentin who practices in both New York and New Jersey.
Between leftover Halloween candy, office potlucks, and appetizers at cocktail parties, it’s easy to overindulge, Valentin said. Eat a protein-rich late-afternoon snack like Greek yogurt, low-fat cheese sticks, or sliced turkey with crackers. A well-timed snack can keep you full into the evening. Drinking water can also keep the extra calories at bay.
Manage Your Time Wisely
You’re not going to be able to make it to all of the parties that you receive invitations to attend. Instead, be honest with yourself about what you are willing to do and have time to do. Turning down invites to events will keep you from becoming overwhelmed, said Denise Limongello, a stress management expert in Manhattan.
Schedule Time for Yourself
Exercise may not be your cup of tea, but by taking an hour to yourself daily, you can relax a bit. Read, watch a favorite show or sporting event, or stop by your local watering hole for a beer.
Hang Out With Friends
The holiday season can be a time to take stock of your life. You may long for times before loved ones died. You may feel alone if you’re not dating someone or depressed about your career options. Don't throw yourself a pity party or compare yourself to others. Instead, surround yourself by people who support you.
Anticipate Possible Outcomes
This will be the one time per year that you can’t avoid your corporate ladder-climbing cousin or your parents’ friends who want to set you up with their daughter. Instead of avoiding them, walk over, say hello, and move on. Then, you won’t have to fear your eventual meeting.
Volunteer For Groups that Need Help
There are many ways to offer help to those in need, said April Masini, a New York relationship expert. Organize a food drive at your office or clean out your cabinets of non-perishable items. You can also round up old coats, hats, and gloves to donate. If you’d like to shop for someone else, consider sponsoring a family to buy gifts for children and adults who may not receive presents otherwise.
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