Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happiness and cheer: Monthly's guide to the holidays



10 steps to avoiding holiday burnout

The holidays are stressful to just about everybody — and despite what it sounds like, that’s not a generalization. A Harris Interactive “holiday stress index” survey found that 90 percent of Americans feel anxiety this time of year. The funny thing is, the holidays don’t have to be stressful, and you can begin approaching the season with more excitement and less dread right now. Let us count the ways...

1. ESTABLISH GUIDELINES

Many of us add obligations — parties, gift exchanges, “signature” baked goods — to our holiday routines without realizing we’re overloading our plates. List all your holiday activities, everything from the kids’ nativity play to the neighborhood cookie party, and then cross off anything that doesn’t give you and your family true joy. Do the same with your Christmas card list, crossing off those you only hear from in December (or less). Then it again for the people you buy gifts for, and the dishes and baked goods you typically make. Drop everything you do out of obligation or because it’s “tradition.”

2. DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP

If the kids ask for five types of Christmas cookies, there’s no reason they shouldn’t help you bake them. Enlist the assistance of family, friends and co-workers to lighten your load wherever you can.

3. WATCH THE HOLIDAY SNACKING

When we’re stressed, we reach for comfort food, and there’s nothing more comforting than a plate of Christmas cookies or a loaf of your neighbor’s awesome pumpkin bread. But all those extra calories can translate into a New Year’s Eve outfit that might not fit. Plus, the sugar rush and crash that follows a holiday binge can wreak havoc on your mood and metabolism. So keep the snacks (relatively) healthy and indulge in holiday treats sparingly.

4. DRINK AND BE MERRY, BUT NOT LIKE A CRAZY PERSON

Mulled wine, seasonal microbrews, champagne toasts — many view the holidays as a time to imbibe with loved ones and co-workers. And while celebrating is fine, overindulging in alcohol can quickly add to your stress — think of the extra calories, hangovers, sapped energy and halted productivity. So stay hydrated (with water) and save the toasts for truly special occasions.

5. FIND TIME TO EXERCISE, SOMEHOW

If you don’t think you have time to exercise during the busy holiday season, think outside the box. Instead of driving around to look at the lights, find a twinkling neighborhood and get out and walk. When you head to the stores, park as far away as you can from the entrance. Exercise is an awesome form of stress relief, so when you’re feeling overwhelmed, dust off that membership card and hit the gym.

6. MAKE A BUDGET AND STICK TO IT

Overspending is a huge, huge source of holiday stress, so make a budget as early as you can, before the emotions of the season overtake your better judgment. Be sure to include easily overlooked expenses, such as baking supplies and shipping costs. And once you set the holiday budget, stick to it. Own it. Don’t apologize for it. Treat it like it’s your best friend in December, and it will repay that kindness in January.

7. LOCATE YOUR JOY

The holidays can hold magic for all of us, but sometimes while we’re making our family’s holiday dreams come true we set aside our own. Don’t. Take the long way home and look at Christmas lights. Go caroling. (No, really!) Make a cup of cocoa and sit and look at the Christmas tree after the kids are in bed. Catch afavorite holiday special on TV. Do something every day, or at least every week, that brings back happy memories and helps define the holidays for you.

8. FIND TIME FOR A LONG WINTER'S NAP

Put down the half-written holiday cards and turn off the light! You need shut-eye more than you need to wrap one more gift, so do your mind, body and soul a favor and get a reasonable amount of rest each night.

9. GIVE BACK

If you find yourself suffering from woe-is-me-itis, stop thinking about your problems and focus on others. Sign up to ring the Salvation Army bell. Take a needy child’s name from an angel tree and find a great gift. Visit an assisted-living facility in town and ask to be introduced to someone who doesn’t have family nearby and might like a friend. You will be amazed how much better you feel after taking a break from your worries. (Need advice on where to volunteer your time? A list of local charities begins on page 86.)

10. BE SMARTER THAN YOUR STRESSORS

Remember those 90 percent of Americans who get stressed out during the holidays? Well, 77 percent said that holiday family gatherings were the cause of their increased anxiety. If you know your mother-in-law is going to make her annual comment about your baking abilities, and you know that comment is going to send your blood pressure through the roof, then head it off at the pass. Know your triggers and come up with a game plan for how to avoid (or at least defuse) them.



 






Article by Robyn Passante for Hilton Head Monthly
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