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Managing holiday stress routines

Ridgecrest Regional Hospital Tera Moorehead–The holidays are here, and so is the excitement for many people looking forward to spending more time with those they love. You may find that you are extra busy planning, shopping, preparing and just thinking about all that needs to be done. You may also find that you are extra stressed out and even getting overwhelmed. This time of year can be a fun and happy time – full of friends and family gathering to celebrate. But it also can be a time of worry, given the extra costs, demands on our time, strain of overextension and a heightened sense of loss for those celebrating without loved ones. 

Any kind of stress, including that experienced around the holidays, can have a negative impact on our overall wellbeing. Increased stress can affect our sleep, cause muscle tightness, make us more vulnerable to illness, affect our digestion, and cause anxiety for many people. Stress can affect our ability to focus, to stick to healthy behaviors, and to stay well. 

According to the Center for Disease Control, some tips to help you deal with stress include: taking care of yourself by having a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, avoiding excess alcohol, and taking time to unwind. But we already know we should be doing these things right? When we look at this list we may see how during the holidays many of these beneficial behaviors get put on hold or are ignored altogether. In fact, disrupting our regular routine with the business and activities of the holidays can in itself lead to higher chances of a stressful and not as enjoyable and healthy season. One study found that routine, although it may seem boring, actually helps us stay more centered and able to handle stress and anxiety better. 

So, how can we approach the holidays and still continue with our behaviors that help us feel our best? Try to stick to your regular routine as much as possible. 

Make eating healthy a priority and focus on how the food nourishes you and helps you feel more energized when you make better decisions. With many people planning or having parties, try a new healthy recipe in place of a recipe that may not be the healthiest. Making recipe swaps is so much easier and more available now than ever before. Focusing on how your decisions make you feel can help you stick to them. 

We are extremely blessed to live in an area where we can get outdoors and get sunshine during the holiday season so try setting up walking dates instead of coffee or lunch dates and get your social time and exercise time in at the same time. During the holidays, my husband and I love to bundle up and take a different walking route in the evenings to look at the lights and decorations. It’s actually more fun to walk by then to drive by, and we are getting more movement into our day. 

Set aside one day or evening each week just to unwind and relax. Actually put this time in your calendar or phone so that it doesn’t get filled by something else and really try to stick to keeping that time reserved just for you. 

As much as possible, try to have your usual bedtime schedule and allow time each evening to prepare yourself for a restful sleep. 

Lastly, give yourself and those around you extra grace during this season and focus on what is important to you. 

As we look to the beginning of a new year we can carry our routines into the following months to help us limit our stress and improve our wellbeing. Whatever may come, we can allow our routines to help us stay focused, to help us manage our stress and to prepare ourselves to be healthy and happy.