Lights, decorations, gift-wrapping, mistletoe: it’s the Holidays! This is the special time for togetherness, food, memories, and good cheer. But the holidays also can be a source of great stress between travel, family obligations, and demands on our time and money. How do we celebrate with grace and ease? It can be done with a few simple reminders. Your stress-free holiday is closer than you think.
- First, get a good night’s sleep. In order to get along better with family in tight quarters, it helps to be well rested. You can let annoyances fly by when you’re not tired and cranky yourself. Good sleep habits include retiring at the same time each night and waking at the same time each morning. Daily naps (20-30 minutes) serve as a quick midday pick-me-up. Once you arrive at grandma’s house the bed may not be comfortable, so get a good night’s sleep before you go. When you travel, remember sleep deprivation reduces response time when driving and shortens our patience when standing in long lines at the airport.
- Did you know that optimism reduces stress by reducing anxiety? Optimistic people have better health outcomes and live longer. When we are with our families old dynamics reemerge, resist any “ baiting” and simply know this too will pass. Optimism may take the form of prayer, meditation, or mantras. Seeing the world through rose-colored glasses and the philosophy of a half-full (not half-empty) glass in hand are positive ways to live life. Go with the flow.
- Remember, breathing may be the simplest, yet most effective technique of handling stress. We all breathe, but my guess it that most of us do not breathe deeply nor pay enough attention to breathing, which is a critical bodily function and a sustainer of life. Now, take a deep breath and count to ten. Remember optimism feeds the mind while breath feeds the soul. Try this exercise each morning: take three deep breaths and visualize having a good day. When you are with your family over the holidays, take three deep breaths and relax.
- Don’t forget that you can just say “NO.” During the holiday season we are inundated with demands on our time. Be protective of your time—it’s valuable. Don’t over-schedule activities or sacrifice sleep or exercise to do other things. Time spent together with family and friends is most important and saying NO to other demands can free us to do the things that bring us the most joy—like sharing holiday traditions, memories, and special food.
- Finally, protect yourself this cold/flu season with a flu shot and hand washing. Flu season picks up momentum in December with many group activities. During the holiday season you need to protect yourself from unwanted germs! You don’t want to miss any of the fun. But, if you are sick, stay home so you do not spread your germs to your extended family, friends, coworkers or classmates. Cough/sneeze into your elbow and wash hands immediately after blowing nose. If water is not available, then water-free anti-bacterial gels or wet-ones will work.
January and the New Year will be here before we know it. So take time to enjoy a stress-free holiday season with friends and family. Season’s Greetings!
Sylvia E. Morris, MD, MPH, is a board-certified physician in internal medicine and holistic medicine. In addition to her clinical responsibilities, she speaks at many community forums and delivers health awareness presentations. Tell her what you think on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.