By Tracey Arwood, CNM
The holiday season can be a stressful time of year. There are many reasons men and women experience holiday stress–pressure to spend money, lack of time, traffic, and commercialism of the season to name a few.
Both men and women feel a responsibility to their family to make the holiday the best they can.
According the American Psychiatric Association (APA), holiday stress has a greater impact on women, who take on most of the responsibility of cooking, shopping, and planning celebrations. Women also have more difficulty relaxing and enjoying themselves this time of year.
Despite the stress, the APA found that the majority of people look forward to the holiday season and spending more time with loved ones. The following tips will help you de-stress and take care of yourself so that you can enjoy the holidays.
Simplify–First and foremost, this time of year is about family, love, peace, and giving. If something on the agenda does not match up with one of these priorities, then let it go. Recognize that it is impossible to do it all, and share or delegate responsibilities.
Simplify family traditions to things that are easy and increase quality time, like stories in front of the tree or viewing Christmas lights together. Involve the whole family in decorating or addressing Christmas cards. For adult family members, consider drawing names for a gift exchange rather than buying gifts for each person.
Relax—Breathe deeply anytime the stress of the holidays creeps in. Listen to music. Open the curtains and take in nature. Avoid multitasking, and instead give each activity your full and present attention.
In each moment, enjoy the sights, smells, sounds, and company. In the evening, curl up in front of the fire with a good book and some hot chocolate or tea with honey. Ensure you are getting enough and quality sleep. See your health care provider if sleep becomes a problem.
Go outside–The shorter days and longer nights yield to seasonal affective disorder, commonly referred to as SAD, a form of depression, during the fall and winter months. Sunshine and vitamin D help boost serotonin and energy levels, as well as improving the ability to fight off infection and disease.
Spending time outdoors can improve creativity and focus, as well as boost mood and self-esteem. Exercising outdoors increases energy and decreases stress. Bundle up and go to the park or take a brisk walk over your lunch break. Plan to spend at least 15 minutes outside every day.
Boost immunity–Along with holiday stress, this time of year is also known as “cold and flu season”. Frequent hand washing and a yearly flu shot are the most effective ways to stay healthy each winter. Quitting or cutting down on smoking is essential for avoiding sickness.
Beef up on vitamin C and immune fighting antioxidants by eating fresh fruits and vegetables, such as oranges, strawberries, bell peppers and broccoli. Garlic, onions, and yogurt also help our immune system fight off infection.
Connect–Maximize time with family and friends during the holidays. Meet for lunch, play a family game, or go for a winter walk. Make handmade Christmas gifts together. Share the joy of giving to others by making cards for hospital patients or caroling at the nursing home. Volunteer to ring the bell at the grocery store. Donate toys or clothes to needy families.
If you have lost a loved one this year, make a new tradition to remember him or her. Have family and friends fill a stocking in his or her honor with memories or talking points to share. Perform one of his or her holiday duties or serve at a charity in their honor.
Self-care is an essential step in making the most of the holiday season. If you are dealing with anxiety or depression, please seek help from your primary care provider.
Tracey Arwood, CNM is available to see women for primary care concerns, such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, or winter illness. To make an appointment, contact the TCMH Medical Complex in Houston at (417)967-5637 or the TCMH Mountain Grove Clinic at (417)926-1770.