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Keeping Holiday Stress Levels in Check

The holiday season is nearly here. It’s the wonderful time of year when we indulge in food, drink and celebration. For the most part the holidays bring feelings of love and joy. However, work deadlines, holiday shopping and family events can also be a source for stress, fatigue and even sadness. One study by Greenberg Quinlan and Rosner  in 2006 surveyed thousands of people in the US and found that there was a substantial increase in the following emotions during the holiday season. 

 

Fatigue  68% 
Stress  61%
Irritability  52%
Bloating  28%
Sadness  36%
Anger  25% 
Loneliness  26%

 The study also noted that holiday stress has a particular impact on women.  Women are more likely to report an increase of stress during the holiday season because in many cases they are still doing most of the meal preparation, decorating the home and shopping for gifts. In addition, they have a harder time relaxing during the holidays and are more likely to fall into bad habits to manage their stress, like comfort eating.

 Holiday stress also has a strong  impact on lower middle-income individuals. This group feels the weight of stress from work plus the seasonal rush to find time to get everything done. In addition, their worries about money are heightened by the commercialism of the season and the pressure to spend a lot of money.

 The holiday season also means that people are much more likely to behave in sedentary ways like watching TV, sleeping, eating and drinking to manage their stress.

 So what should we be doing to help manage our holiday stress levels? Here are 5 techniques which will help to keep you calm and stress free this holiday season.

 1) Deep Breathing: Studies show that engaging in deep breathing activities 3-5 times a day can decrease blood pressure, anxiety and stress. Try this technique.

Sit comfortably and close your eyes. With your mouth closed, exhale deeply through your nose. Imagine that you are pouring the breath out of a jug, starting at the top of your chest and moving down through your mid-torso and into your diaphragm. Pause for two counts at the bottom of the breath, then inhale through your nose. Refill the “jug” slowly, counting to five (or seven if you can make it). Start at the bottom, expanding your diaphragm and belly, then your mid-torso, and lastly the top of your chest and lungs. Pause for two counts and exhale as before. Repeat 5–10 times.

 2) Progressive muscle relaxation: This technique is useful when trying to relax after a long day.  It helps the mind focus on just the activity at hand, and not on the millions of other things that are on your “to do” list. Try this technique. With the eyes closed and in a sequential pattern, a tension in a given muscle group is purposefully done for approximately 10 seconds and then released for 20 seconds before continuing with the next muscle group. The mental component focuses on the difference between the feelings of the tension and relaxation.

  3) Get organized: Creating lists of what needs to be accomplished in the short-term (today) and long-term (this week) will help you prioritize holiday tasks. Creating a budget for gift giving helps you lay out how much you can afford per person and will help you manage the financial stress that can go along with overspending on holiday gifts. Lastly, planning social events in advance on a monthly calendar will help you ensure that you are not overextending yourself with social obligations and parties.

 4) Create Strategies to Minimize Stress: Shopping earlier or shopping online can help decrease the stress from store line-ups and mall parking. You may also consider forgoing gifts entirely and donating to your favourite charity. Lastly, delegating responsibilities such as chores, cooking, and purchasing presents means that you are  more able to enjoy the season instead of dreading the responsibilities that go along with it.

 5) Make Time for Exercise: It is important to aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day. Using an online tool like www.fitday.com will help to monitor your exercise levels and food intake over the holiday season.

 This season concentrate on positive emotions and staying healthy. Only then can you really enjoy the best of what the holidays bring.

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