Stress of the Season

December 16th, 2010

Tis the season to be stressed,  fa la la la la, la la la la!  

Even if you love the holiday season, it can be tough to get through.  Once Halloween arrives, Thanksgiving isn’t far behind.  That leaves about 4 weeks until Christmas.  All of this hits right when the daylight hours are the shortest of the whole year.  Then you can throw in snow and freezing temperatures for a good portion of the country.  Next take a look at your “to do” list.  Is it overwhelming?  Are you traveling or having company come to your house?  What about work?  Have you lost your job or are you one of the “lucky” ones with a job, but have double your workload?  Do you have health problems?  Are you feeling stressed yet?

Here are a few basic tips: 

  1. Take deep breaths.  When you find yourself getting out of sorts, take 2-3 slow, deep breaths.  This is a quick, simple way to get your stress level down.  An easy way to do this is to close your eyes, take a slow, deep breath in through your nose (your abdomen should expand, not your chest), hold the breath for several seconds, and release the breath out slowly through your mouth. 
  2. Get enough sleep.  It’s easy to stay up late doing everything you didn’t get done during the day, but it’ll just slow you down the next day.  Do this for several days and you’ll be tired and irritable.  Do this long term and you’re at risk for a variety of health problems.
  3. Get some sunshine every day whenever possible.  If you’re really affected by the lack of sunshine, consider looking into buying a light box.  Light therapy can be an effective treatment for seasonal depression and other conditions.  Do some research and talk to your doctor about this option.
  4. Get some exercise.  Walking 30 minutes every day has been proven to relieve stress, improve mood, reduce pain, and provide other benefits.  If you’re just starting an exercise program, check with your doctor first.   People often do too much and then quit because of pain and stiffness.  So start with 5-10 minutes and build up your exercise time and intensity. 
  5. Know your limits.   There are going to be years that have various challenges.  Some people have lost a loved one this year and it’s the first holiday without them.  Others have health issues, financial difficulties, or are going through any number of life transitions.  Take a look at what you are willing and able to do this holiday season and then set some limits.