The holidays can bring many things - joy, happiness and wonderful connections- as well as other things... like STRESS! Studies have shown that women are more likely to feel holiday stress than men leading to anxiety, depression and irritability. As women, our schedules are already filled to the brim - add the holiday cooking, decorating and gift giving to the equation and you have a formula for a potential mental breakdown.
According to a recent on-line survey, when asked, “How Stressful is the Holiday Season for You? “
• 42 % responded “very stressful” • 38 % “somewhat stressful” and • 18% “not feeling stressful at all”
About 80% felt somewhat or very stressed during the holidays! How about you?
If you’re one of these people in the 80%, help is on the way!
Let’s first start with the top 3 triggers that increase our stress levels - especially during the holidays!
Tensions are often heightened during the holidays putting an added strain on your relationships, both with your partner, family and extended family members. Gathering all of the family members in a closed area for a specific period of time can lead to unwanted misunderstandings, conflict and discomfort. Past emotions can be triggered and easily erupt into unwanted turmoil. Be aware of this trigger and breathe. (Please see 60 second breathing exercise at end of blog).
We all would love to buy amazingly generous gifts for our friends and family, but financial restrictions won’t allow for it. The holidays put an added burden on our budget with the extra gifts, travel, food and entertainment. Don’t buy into the marketing hype and stay true to your values.
3) Physical Demands All of the shopping and parties can leave us exhausted and feeling wiped out. From Thanksgiving through New Year's Day, our sleeping hours can be severely compromised - creating a vicious cycle of exhaustion and increased stress. Chores and errands may take a higher priority than exercise and sleep. To make matters even worse, by burning the candle at both ends, we make ourselves more susceptible to colds and flu infections.
Given these top triggers, let’s explore strategies that help make the holidays more jolly and less nerve-wracking.
“Five Tips to Prevent Holiday Stress”
1) Be realistic – You are NOT Wonder Woman! Yes, you may want to think that you are wearing a red cape and are unstoppable but you're not. As women, we tend to multi-task and during the holidays, this talent can reach its greatest challenge. We juggle more and more things until we can’t take it anymore. Well, stop juggling! Take a few things off your “to do” list, start delegating tasks to your partner and your kids, and start saying “NO” to projects that you don’t want to do. And remember, not everything has to be perfect—Martha Stewart is not keeping tabs on you!
2) Speak your feelings. Express your stress and let it out. Find those friends with whom you can be completely honest and vulnerable and who can support you. The Amazing Over 40 community is here for you too! Many times, just by voicing our fears, we feel less pressure and overwhelmed.
3) Don’t break the bank – stick to a budget. The most precious things in life don’t necessarily need to cost a fortune. Remember, meaningful, heartfelt experiences are priceless. No purchase could ever compare to the feeling of happiness and connection that the holidays can bring by simply spending quality time together. So, before you head out to the department and grocery stores, decide how much money you can afford to spend and then stick to your budget.
As I’m getting older (and more amazing!), I’m realizing that the greatest gift is that of TIME! Spending time with family and friends. This Christmas, I will be spending a week with my niece, two nephews, brother-in-law and sister on the North Shore of Hawaii. There won’t be any gifts exchanged - just time being with each other, laughing and creating new memories and experiences.
One of my favorite gifts that won’t break the bank is giving photos. I download them from my phone and print them out and then place in various frames, either in a single ornate frame or a montage format. Friends and family love these gifts, which they can display the whole year long. Truly priceless!
4) Maintain healthy habits – this means diet, exercise and physical intimacy.
Be mindful of what you eat at holiday parties. Your body is your palace so treat it like one! Make time for exercise – and stick to your weekly routine at the gym. Also, be attentive to your needs for intimacy during these times. By maintaining a healthy sex life during the holidays, you can strengthen your immune system. Studies have shown that healthy sex increases the body’s natural production of antibodies, specifically levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA), which are the first line of defense in helping fight against widespread infectious diseases such as flu and cold viruses.
5) Take time for yourself. Allow yourself some “down time” without distractions. Listening to the ocean, walking in the park or just plain breathing are some examples. Check in with yourself during the day – are you feeling stressed? If the answer is a resounding "Yes!", please do my favorite 60 second breathing exercise throughout the day.
60 second breathing exercise: Breathe in for 5 seconds, then out for 5 seconds. Do this for a total of 6 times and it will be a minute. A minute well spent on your health and your sanity!
Here’s to a happy (and less stressful) holiday season!