While holidays are often full of family, food and fun, they are also often stressful. Stress, unfortunately, is not merely bad for mental health, but can increase cortisol levels, which can lead to fatigue, anxiety, poor sleep and even weight gain. Dr. Mia Finkelston, an online doctor who treats patients for LiveHealth Online, shares her tips for managing the holidays and keeping stress in check:
- Remember your priorities. When things get hectic, take time to calmly figure out what matters most to you right now. Is it traveling to be with family? Is it cooking one great dish instead of several? Focus on what matters the most.
- Make lists. Be proactive by jotting down what you need to do and by when you plan to do it. Checklists are an excellent way to tangibly acknowledge what you have accomplished, and you might just notice stress melt away each time you have finished a task. So evaluate what you want out of the holidays and make three columns to organize:
- What you MUST do
- What you want to do if there’s time — BONUS
- Things you can say NO to
- Learn to say no. This is so important when it comes to managing stress. It’s okay if you are too busy to participate in every single cookie exchange or holiday party. It’s okay if you can’t pick up every relative at the airport. Be upfront and say what cannot work for you.
- Donate your time or items to a needy cause. People who are philanthropic report feeling good, relaxed and fulfilled in life. During the holidays there are many opportunities to help out in your community.
- Multitask! Make boring activities fun by combining them with something more enjoyable. Have gift-wrapping parties with friends or put on your favorite movie as you wrap.
- Sleep regular hours. This is important. Sleep has a huge impact on mood, health and stability. If you aren’t sleeping enough, you might find yourself too tired to tackle tasks properly, which will only add to stress levels.
- Eat nutrient-dense foods particularly if you are indulging in cookies and holiday pies. Food, like sleep, affects both mood and health, so it is important to make sure that you are receiving the right nutrients to maintain energy and overall health.
- Stay active! Keep your exercise routine going through the holiday season. Exercise will help keep you in balance. If this is impossible, find a way to modify your workout routine. Heading out of town for the week? Write up a list — before you leave — of several short (10 minutes) workouts that you could do anywhere. Gym closed? Head outside for a family hike or soccer game. Friends suggesting more holiday drinks? Suggest a “healthy” substitute activity like a walk or a ping pong game instead. Exercising in any form reduces stress!
Comments and opinions from Dr. Mia Finkelston are hers alone. This is an essay and is not considered medical treatment.