Lighten your load and keep stress at bay at Christmastime

by Kate Evans

The Christmas holidays are always a time where there’s so much to do and the stress builds as you try to find the time to get it all done.

Shopping, wrapping presents, baking cookies, cleaning and decorating the house, writing Christmas cards and attending Christmas parties and family get-togethers can all get overwhelming on top of work and other home responsibilities.

Some strategies that can lighten your load are pacing yourself and doing a little at a time. No reason to get gung-ho and put up all the decorations at once. Do a room at a time or decorate the Christmas tree in stages so it’s not so burdensome.

If you just can’t deal with another holiday invitation on top of your mounting Christmas do list, graciously give your regrets. Pick one gathering that you’ll attend or just say no as nicely as you can and note some things you need to take care of instead. Forget commitments that leave you exhausted just thinking about them.

If you’re getting pressured to bake mountains of cookies from your family, sit down and have a calm discussion about what to bake and what to skip so you wind up with a happy medium of goodies. Maybe you can save making Aunt Julia’s gourmet strudel for next year and stick with chocolate chip cookies.

Grief

If you’re dealing with grief from the loss of a loved one, acknowledge your feelings and find a special way to pay tribute to them now that they’re gone. If they loved dogs, donate to an animal shelter in their memory. If they were a big music fan, listen to some of their favorite tunes to keep them close. If needed, talk to a personal counselor or join a support group.

If you’re sad because you’re missing not being able to be with family at the holidays, reach out to others if you’re feeling isolated or lonely. Go to social or community events like Christmas music concerts or plays that will lift your spirits and make you feel a part of the holidays.

Another way to get involved in the community is by volunteering to help the less fortunate by working at a food pantry or soup kitchen, collecting toys or clothes for needy families, sending care packages to soldiers overseas or making holiday cards for veterans or nursing home residents.

Movies

Watch an inspirational holiday movie like “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It will raise your spirits as you see Jimmy Stewart come to grips with the meaning of his life with his guardian angel Clarence’s help as he learns how many lives he has touched and realizes how precious his wife, children and neighbors in Bedford Falls really are.

Enjoy a good laugh while catching a great Christmas comedy like Chevy Chase’s “Christmas Vacation. Follow the Griswold family’s quest for a live Christmas tree, the

invasion of family for the holidays and the subsequent bickering, the 25,000 Christmas lights at their house, Sparky’s missing Christmas bonus and their many hilarious escapades.

Sleep, exercise

Be sure to get enough sleep as you try to tackle all your holiday chores. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials recommend seven to nine hours of sleep for adults for health and wellbeing.

Exercise is a great way to keep a handle on holiday stress or blues. Walking for a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes four days a week will get you outdoors enjoying nature and help keep your mood up. If the weather isn’t conducive for walking, put on a CD and dance.

Other fun activities that can relieve stress are reading a book or magazine, listening to music and doing hobbies like crocheting, cooking, knitting, woodworking, painting and photography. Outdoor sports like basketball, volleyball, fishing, soccer, football and archery can also be enjoyable.

Seasonal affective disorder

If your sadness is lingering, make sure that you’re not suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as it strikes some during the winter months.

Symptoms include depression, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, appetite changes and feeling hopeless. Light therapy, medications and cognitive behavioral therapy can help. Walking, music and art therapy and meditation can also be beneficial.

Signs of depression

Signs of depression include sleeping too much or too little, loss of appetite or overeating, trouble concentrating or making decisions, lingering sadness or crying spells, lack of energy, lethargy, feeling worthless and hopeless, loss of interest in things that were enjoyable, withdrawal from friends and activities, anxiety, irritability and anger, excessive use of alcohol or drug use and recurring thoughts or talk of suicide.

If you or a loved one are experiencing depression or thoughts of suicide, get help now. Call a local counselor or the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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