Published on 11/30/15

Make lists, eat well and exercise to reduce holiday stress

By Keishon Thomas

Before the jack-o’-lanterns lost their smiles, stores were already advertising sales, stringing up holiday lights, setting up displays and playing seasonal music. There’s a huge buildup to the winter holidays.

The season brings changes for many of us: families are visiting, different foods are consumed, homes take on festive looks and bedtime routines are disrupted.

Holiday to-do lists are long. With goodies to bake, cards to write, packages to buy and wrap, parties to attend and travel plans to make, lists may already be winding down the hall, out the living room window and waving in the breeze.

With so much happening, we have little time left to take care of ourselves, and physical and emotional resources may become depleted. Some stress can provide motivation to be productive, but too much stress can be detrimental to health and enjoyment of the season.

To make this holiday less stressful and more enjoyable, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension offers the following tips:

  • Plan ahead and get organized. Many of us are so busy with our daily lives that we often don't feel as though we have time to plan ahead for the holidays. Taking care of things ahead of time, such as shopping for gifts and completing holiday cards, reduces the workload as the holidays draw nearer.
  • Make lists of what to buy and where to buy them. Create a list of everything that needs to be done and bought, then attach a schedule for the coming weeks to break large tasks into smaller ones.
  • Set a budget for shopping. Avoid stress later by limiting spending now.
  • Set realistic expectations. Rather than expecting your holiday to be "perfect," focus on the real meaning of the season. Spending quality time with loved ones is the ultimate goal.
  • It is OK if the food or decor is not perfect. Focus on the positive moments as much as possible. Take time to think about what events to attend or host and for how long, keeping in mind that, sometimes, less is more.
  • Take care of yourself. This is one of the cornerstones of stress management, and it's especially important at holiday time, for you and for everyone else in the family, especially children. Stress can spill over onto other family members, so it's a kindness to everyone when you take good care of yourself.
  • Making sure we eat healthy foods, exercise, get plenty of rest and relaxation also helps to bolster us and renews our physical and emotional resources.
  • Focus on eating healthier foods, such as vegetables, fruits and lean meats. Ask yourself if you are truly hungry or if you are just eating because food is readily available.
  • Increase your physical activity by walking after meals and taking stairs rather than elevators.
  • Finally, take time for yourself, even if it's only a few minutes while you are lying in bed in the morning.
  • Be in the moment. Remember, every stressful situation, glitch, perceived setback and roadblock has the potential for awesome memories and great stories in the future.

Time management is also key when it comes to reducing stress. To learn more, see UGA Extension Circular 1042, "Time Management: 10 Strategies for Better Time Management."

Keishon Thomas is the University of Georgia Extension family and consumer sciences agent in Bibb County.

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