Managing Holiday Stress Keeps the “Merry” in Christmas

Published in Bakersfield Life Magazine, December 2015

Remember the days when Christmas meant classroom parties and loads of sweet treats (goodies you didn’t have to make)? And maybe you wondered how Santa would get your presents down the chimney (but you knew he’d manage, so it wasn’t really a worry at all). Whatever your childhood was like, if you’re reading an article on holiday stress, then you already know: those days are over.

The holiday season can take its toll on us in lots of ways, but you can keep the “merry” in Christmas. Sit down, take a deep breath, and get to work on your own plan for keeping your mind, spirit, body and finances in good shape this season.

Mind & Spirit

Leaving some “white space” on the calendar may seem impossible this time of year. When the schedule is packed with activities, my stress level soars! My husband thrives on having a full social calendar; I require a little more down-time between events to recharge. Intentionally leaving room for some me-time or family-time helps keep things in balance.

Color-coding calendar entries can give you some control over your time by prioritizing events. Certain school performances, work events, and family traditions will be non-negotiable; identify them and try to embrace them! Then designate the other activities as “optional” and add them to your calendar in a different color. If the timing works (and you decide you want to attend), then have at it!

Remembering the true “reason for the season” also helps me stay grounded. If you have a faith and worship routine, stay steady and remember it’s really not all about sales and Santa Claus.

Body

Even if you feel like you’re careening toward December 25th and time is of the essence, don’t give up on your fitness routine. Staying active not only burns calories, it also increases endorphins that enhance your mood and reduce feelings of anxiety. Maintaining—or even starting—an exercise routine during the holidays can help you stay one step ahead of extra holiday pounds while you keep a positive attitude.

Kern County offers plenty of holiday fun runs. Now is a great time to grab your friends and family and head out for for a morning of fun while you fend off stress at the same time.

Finances

If you haven’t already, determine your gift budget and decide how much you can spend on each person on your list. Starting your shopping early puts you in control of purchases, allowing time to watch for deals and to make thoughtful decisions.

If this is an especially difficult year for you financially, chances are it’s the same for some of your friends and family, too. This might be a good time to start drawing names for extended family or co-workers, rather than splurging on a gift for everyone. Or maybe have an open conversation and take a complete break from the gift exchange this year.

With a little time and effort, you can also make gifts for people on your list. One of my favorites last year was a mason jar, filled with ingredients for making cookies (at some later date when my caloric intake wasn’t already so high). Getting the whole family involved can make gift-making a fun evening or weekend event.

With some forethought and fortitude (and, yes, a little flexibility), you can regain some of that child-like spirit this holiday season.

Merry Christmas!

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