Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Stay Stress-Free During the Holidays
    The holidays are a time of tradition and family, giving thanks and grand meals. But for many of us, these ideal notions fade in the midst of the frenzy that accompanies the holiday season. As we know all too well, the holiday season can produce some very stressful situations: How can I afford to buy everyone gifts on a tight budget? I can't stand my brother-in-law, how am I supposed to get along with him this year? How can I enjoy the holidays going through this divorce? Indeed, some of us dread the added stress of the holidays so much that we choose to spend this special time alone rather than with our loved ones. But it doesn't have to be this way. We don't have to struggle through the holiday season or settle to spend it by ourselves.
    Take my advice to stay healthy, balanced, and stress-free this holiday season:
1.) Don’t Binge or Overdrink: It’s perfectly fine to indulge a little during family gatherings. In fact, it’s impossible not to give in when you're surrounded by delicious food! But a little does mean a little. Have one piece of pie, not three. And if you've already devoured your one piece, don’t dive into the second dessert course. There is no reason to do damage to yourself by feasting limitlessly; that people binge on food during the holidays is an excuse to eat excessively, not a reason. Apart from it being unhealthy for your body, you will feel guilty afterwards. More so, try to compensate for your hearty holiday dinners by eating healthy meals in preparation during the week prior, not the week after. Limit also your alcohol intake. It might seem like a good idea to stifle your seesawing emotions by drinking the whole bottle of wine. But alcohol will only intensify already-existing emotions and will lead to a crash in energy after its effects wear off. By eating and drinking in moderation, you can remain in control of your emotions and feel more comfortable with your surroundings.
2.) Be Realistic: If you're on a tight budget but have to buy gifts for tons of people, understand that you won't be able to accommodate everyone. Better yet, get creative and create gifts for your loved ones, such as a hand-made card or a hand-crafted item. If you're supposed to be in ten different places in one day, accept the fact that you'll only make it to one or two. Don’t put yourself in difficult positions by promising too much just because you feel the need to please everyone. Trust me, if they love you they'll understand!
3.) Don’t Succumb to Pressure: If someone is asking you for too much, politely tell them you won't be able to do as they ask. Be nice but firm with those who try to take advantage of you during this time. If a particularly rude relative continuously makes comments to your dislike, stand up for yourself and end their commentary. You can say something like, “I know you'll respect my decision to not speak about this right now.” Don’t let the extra pressure affect you. Affirm to yourself: “I'll do as much as I can, and that’s good enough. I won't bring stress to myself by trying to do too much.”
4.) It’s Okay to be Blue: The holidays come complete with feelings of nostalgia and melancholy. These emotions are normal and typically fade on their own once you bounce back into your daily routine. Distract yourself if you find hurtful memories of “Christmas past” resurfacing. What is important, however, is to be able to identify when you're experiencing the holiday blues versus when you're suffering from depression. A clinical depression is much more severe than just feeling sad; sadness due to the holidays springs up right around that time of the year, while depression is persistent, lasts year-round, and can be powerful enough to affect your everyday life. Know the difference and, if you believe you have symptoms of clinical depression, seek the help of a professional.
5.) Have Mercy on Yourself: You're only one person, so stop thinking you can conquer your entire holiday to-do list in one day. It’s you who you have to please first this holiday season. Whenever you're feeling overwhelmed, take a breather: sit down and enjoy a hot beverage, clear your mind of anything holiday-related, and focus instead on setting up positive New Year’s Resolutions for yourself.
6.) Make Amends: There is no better time than this time of the year to forgive and forget. As much as you might not want to, you have to forgive those who have hurt you in any way. It only hurts you to keep grudges against others. Whether it’s an immediate family member of a long lost friend, reach out to them this holiday season and both ask for their forgiveness and tell them you forgive them for whatever happened. Don't make this a novel or the speech of your life; a quick and simple email will suffice.
7.) Diffuse Tension: Whenever tension arises, instead of engaging in it, replace it with something productive. If the conversation around the dinner table is becoming too intense, don’t be afraid to speak up and put an end to it. Or, if you feel this is something you can't do, simply walk away from the discussion and make yourself busy in the kitchen or outside. Spending some quality time with the children in the family is also a great way to temporarily escape the madness.
We all need to reevaluate the true meaning of this time of the year and reintegrate a little fun into the holidays! Follow my seven simple steps to relieve stress and regain your inner strength during your holiday season.
With Love and Blessings,
Dr. Carmen Harra

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