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How To Reduce Christmas Stress

December 24
21:14 2019

How To Reduce Christmas Stress

By: Dr. Abigail Joseph

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” – or at least that is what the song says. Christmas is often a very pleasant and memorable time for children, not so much for the adults that are busy making the time memorable for them. You tend to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and the secrecy for those who still try to keep the spirit of “Santa” alive and we forget to have fun along the way. I feel like as an adult Christmas has changed a lot. The perspective is different and if I’m not careful I get sucked in along with the busy elves and forget that Christmas is a time for me too. Some adults have already grasped the concept and over indulge in celebrations, and if not careful end up in compromising situations of drunk driving and probably unprotected sex.

We might not all share the same beliefs about Christmas, but one thing is certain – Christmas has A MEANING for everyone. Whether it’s that end of year bonus, a birthday, family time or vacation abroad – that list of meanings is endless. As a child, Christmas for me was family time and gifts. When I was a little girl we had a real pine tree, and we used tinsel, and decorated the bucket with wrapping paper. We didn’t have tile, so buying new linoleum or as some would say – ‘Maaley’ was all part of the Christmas tradition. We would clean the house through and that’s when grandma would pull out all the nice china that we weren’t allowed to touch the entire year! You knew that Christmas was a special time! So as an adult when I smell pine and new linoleum my mind immediately goes to Christmas even when it’s not. It is interesting how the brain records memory. As an adult I don’t have the same traditions as I did when I was a kid, because we use artificial trees now and we don’t buy marley anymore. Now my new traditions are those like every other adult. Saving up, writing a list and making sure I get it all done! Sighs, oh to be young – wish I was still a kid at Christmas.

As an adult the season of being jolly can easily turn into a stressful time. It is normal to feel overwhelmed by the excess expectations and the exchange, and easy to get depressed by it all. We can feel as if we don’t have enough time. We focus on not having enough money, or just the price tags of things or in some cases how deep into debts we go around this time of year. People tend to take advantage of the times and hike up prices of groceries. It’s the time of year the bank advertises quick loans and a time when you put things on layaway or on credit just so you can provide or contribute to the spirit of giving.

Being caught up in the spirit of Christmas, we place very little focus on how the traditions we hold impact our health and our lives. Studies show that there are increased occurrences in heart attacks and heart related deaths around this festive season – this may be due to high levels of stress, heavy alcohol consumption, fatty diet or a combination of all three. With all the activities and cooking happening around this time of year, for most adults it may feel like a deadline rather than a celebration, especially for those that are in charge of hosting! Try these 5 tips to melt the stress away, or at least ease them.

LIMIT SPENDING: according to the American Psychological Association, money is one of the leading causes of stress during the holiday season. Buying gifts, entertainment and also fuel costs are all part of what makes this time of year stressful. First of all, make sure that all your usual expenses, bills etc. are taken care of and accounted for. We need not go into the spirit of spending if we don’t have our priorities straight. Set a budget, make one financial decision at a time so that you can see your way. Avoid temptation by taking only the cash you can afford to spend. Many times we spend unnecessarily because we carry all our money on us, and we don’t take into account our over-spending until we are already back at home; then we realize that we spent money that was designated for something else.

MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS: BE REALISTIC! Many times we tend to go overboard keeping up with the Jones’. Many Belizeans are trapped in this concept and we raise our children to believe that if we don’t have certain things, or the same things as the Jones’ then what they have is not “good enough.” It might ease your financial strain if you ask your children for a list of things they want, and let them know that they might not get everything on that list. Christmas is not a competition and it most certainly is not a reason to dive deeper into debts for the sake of saving face.

AVOID OVERINDULGING: Yes, there will be eating and drinking. It’s all part of the package. The month of December is packed with activities from family gatherings to work functions to social events. Be mindful that excessive stress increases appetite as well as your cravings for sugary foods. If you know you probably won’t work off the excess calories, then it is best to pace yourself. One day of overeating does nothing and one day of overeating does not contribute to weight gain. However, NO ONE over eats for ONE day! Belizeans eat and party ALL OF DECEMBER. Get that morning exercise in, and do not lose sight of your health. For those that are Chronic, remember what is at stake.

GO FOR A WALK: the best antidote for holiday stress is working out. Research has proven that physical exercise reorganizes the brain and reduces stress levels. I know when you hear workout you automatically think about the GYM, but there are small things you can do that is also considered exercise. One of them is walking.

REMEMBER TO HAVE FUN: laughter goes a long way, and in truth during this holiday season it is just what the doctor ordered! Make sure that you laugh plenty, whether it is sharing stories or jokes with the family or just watching a show. Laughter raises relaxation-inducing hormones in the body.

It is not easy being stress-free for the holidays, but modifying lifestyle and practices that reduce stress levels are important for your overall health.

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