Thanksgiving is here and gone. The annual holiday season is in full swing. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, you name it—this is it. This time of year can be one of the best, but it can also be one of the most taxing on our bodies. Stress, poor eating, and less sleep can take its toll on our health. And nothing will put a damper on your holidays faster than getting sick.
Holiday stress can, and does, contribute to stress-related illnesses. How many times have you heard employees and colleagues say that they’re stressed from shopping, from running endless eleventh hour errands in a crowded mall? Ho-ho-ho! What was intended to be an enjoyable, relaxing and fun gift-giving outing becomes another “must do” which needs to be done. Bah, humbug!
Think about what your life might be like if you slowed down a little and tried to enjoy your holidays. What if you gave yourself permission to take it easy at Christmas this year? Here are some tips that might provide some guidance about making it through:
1. Don’t over commit.
Saying yes to every invitation could be one of the bigger mistakes we all make. Holiday parties, get-togethers, Pollyanna parties, Seder dinners, cocktail hours, et al, are just a few of the events to which we may be invited. The workplace environment is not the only place where time management is critical. Like the drug education chant, “Just say no,” learn to balance your time correctly. It may not be necessary to attend every event. Decide which events are worth your valuable time and plan to attend those.
2. Make your holiday gift a donation to a non-profit in honor of your recipient.
There are many family members, friends, and colleagues whom I like to see and extend gifts to during the holidays. But several years ago, in the midst of a particularly hectic year, and realizing that we all had enough “things” in our lives, I invited them to identify a non-profit organization that they supported. Rather than contribute to the frenzied holiday craziness, I wrote checks in honor of my intended gift recipients to their charity. And I, in turn, suggested several organizations that I was supporting. This made a tremendous difference in reducing my stress level. It also allowed us to contribute an end-of-year gift to several worthy non-profit organizations that undoubtedly put the money to good use. And it’s always better to give than to receive!
3. Eat smarter and stay active.
My favorite piece of advice about eating is “Everything in moderation.” This is a solid suggestion when thinking about holiday eating. With balance and moderation, you can enjoy the holidays the healthy way. Choose fresh fruit as a festive and sweet substitute for candy. Consider selecting just one or two of your favorites from the table full of tempting foods. Try to avoid skipping a meal in lieu of a full plate of hors d’oeuvres.
If you have an everyday exercise routine, stick with it. The holidays are no time to skip your exercise or your regular, healthy eating habits. If exercising is not an everyday routine, find fun ways for you and your family to stay active, such as dancing to your favorite holiday music.
4. Avoid injuries–be careful when decorating or cooking.
Injuries can occur anywhere and anytime, but particularly at a time when you’re rushing, stressed and inattentive. The holidays fit that bill. Remember to use step stools instead of furniture when hanging decorations. Keep candles away from children, pets, walkways, trees and curtains and be careful not to leave candles, stoves or fireplaces unattended. When driving or riding in a car, make sure you wear your seat belt. And never, ever get behind the wheel of a car after you’ve been drinking. Period.
And if you have children, keep an eye on them when they’re eating and playing. Keep potentially dangerous toys, food, drinks, household items, and choking hazards (like coins and hard candy) out of their reach. Learn how to provide early intervention for children who are choking, but remember, the best intervention is prevention.
5. Get enough sleep.
Sleep is essential for a body but particularly at times of high stress. It’s important to aim for eight hours of sleep so that you give your body time to recover from the day’s work.
The holidays can also be a time of connecting with friends and family and creating memories that live on throughout the year. Chances are you’ll be more receptive to those interactions if you approach them with positive energy rather than the stressed out, impatient, “oh-no-not-another-thing-I-have-to-do” attitude.
Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season.