Here we go again, anticipating another holiday season. I can’t help but ask where did the time go? Is it just me or are you all feeling the same way? Seems I was just writing about how to set goals for the New Year and in a blink another year has slipped away.
I always tell myself that next year will be different. I’ll slow down my pace for working, running, and doing so I can embrace all the precious moments the holiday season brings. Yet somehow, I’m right back in the same place wondering how in the world will I get everything done? Call me an over-achiever but I love decorating, cooking, hosting, going to parties, and cramming in a ski vacation all during the time from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
Let’s face it. We are all exposed to the same stressors during this time of year like overeating, overspending, drinking too much, holiday travel, and family dramas. But the truth is many of us put more pressure on ourselves by trying to incorporate family tradition into our own holiday. Not only do I remember my mother trying to do it all herself, I also recall sheer exhaustion by the time the New Year rolled around.
Many women feel it’s their sole responsibility to create an ideal holiday experience for their family. They are conditioned from birth to put others’ happiness before their own. This belief system places added pressure to everything else they have going on in their life, which makes the holiday season seem more of a chore than a celebration.
On the top of the list for holiday stress is death, divorce, absent loved ones, or empty nesting when the kids are gone. This is the time of year we miss people the most and we long to go back to a time when they were with us. It’s not surprising that wishing we could return to “the way things used to be” can create feelings of grief, sadness or loneliness at a time of year that is supposed to be joyful.
Let’s also not forget the pressure of family gatherings or “baggage” as it were. Most of us usually have at least one member of our family whether through marriage or blood, that seems to upset the apple cart. It’s not possible to leave them off the invitation list, because it’s an obvious omission. So you hope the family dynamic goes smoothly but nevertheless it adds to the stress of the occasion
Besides emotional factors, there are some external sources of stress that affect our health more so during this busy time of year.
Poor Eating Habits – Sugar, sugar, and more sugar. Can we talk? Fudge, cookies, cakes, pies, and more! All these goodies cause a big spike in simple carbohydrate intake. As a result your metabolism is thrown out of whack, which can lead to mood swings, weight gain, and digestive upset.
Sleep Deprivation – This is a vicious cycle of staying up too late, then drinking too much caffeine to stay awake. This leads to a temporary boost of energy that crashes a few hours later. You may feel better for the moment so you take on more stuff to do like wrapping gifts, baking, or shopping. You end up staying up too late and the cycle starts over.
Too Much Alcohol – Who can resist indulging in eggnog, champagne, or festive cocktails? You may not normally imbibe but it is the holiday after all. Sweet drinks, including wine, contain a lot of sugar. Alcohol is really a depressant but triggers serotonin, which is what gives you the happy high until it wears off. It can produce the same binge and crash scenario as a sugar fix
Too Little Exercise – The holiday season is a great excuse for skipping your exercise routine. You have lots of things that get in your way, shopping, late nights, too much alcohol, and just having too much to do.
What’s the solution? We know it’s easy to become emotionally and physically stressed but what can we do about it? Here are a few suggestions to incorporate into your schedule over the next couple of months.
- Let go of trying to be perfect. Give yourself some slack. You don’t have to be all things to all people or create the ideal party, dinner, or affair. People would much rather be with a calm hostess who can visit and have fun than someone who is uptight and anxious.
- Be thankful for what you have and spend time with your loved ones. Acknowledge those who have passed and family traditions that came before but look to the present and make the most of what you have now.
- You don’t have to do it all. Reach out to others and ask for help. If you are the designated host of a family dinner or holiday party, delegate responsibilities to others. Include family and friends in the planning. Make it a joint effort and you will be less likely to feel resentment!
- Make time for you. Find a few minutes each day to give yourself some well-deserved love and nurturing. Get a massage, take a much-needed nap, listen to music, curl up with a book, meditate, go for a walk, etc.
- Eat well by stocking up on healthy choices. Don’t skip meals just because you over did it at the night before. Drink lots of water to help detoxify your body, eat protein, veggies or fruit at every meal.
- Get to bed early enough to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. If you know you have a late night coming up tomorrow, go to sleep earlier tonight. Stick to a set bedtime if and when possible.
Balance is the key to enjoying the season and staying healthy. Just remember that it’s a time to give thanks and count our blessings. This year I’m making my list and checking it twice. The only difference is I made sure to remind myself to eat less, drink less (alcohol that is), exercise just as much, and best of all love more! How about you?