Defeat Stress this Holiday Season

Released: 11/19/2007 11:20 AM EST
Source Newsroom: University of Maryland, College Park
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Newswise — The holidays are here - and for many, stress will be an unwelcome guest. University of Maryland psychology lecturer, Dr. Thomas Capo, says that holiday stress can be conquered by following some common sense tips that aim to help body, mind and pocketbook. "Your quality of life need not be diminished because of holiday stress," he says.

Short-term stress is not the problem - but rather stress over a longer period of time. Dr. Capo says loss of sleep and weight gain can be a clue that stress is starting to overwhelm the holiday spirit. He suggests setting aside some "calm down" time. "Simply relax and enjoy yourself and your family and friends." Watch what you eat and don't drink too much alcohol. Finally, Dr. Capo says to slow down! You can defeat stress if you "try your best to avoid being in a big rush to get wherever you're going."

To Start With...

1. The holiday season is a time when you are (or should be) able to kick back, relax, and enjoy the company of your loved ones and friends. So the first tip is to simply relax and enjoy yourself and your family and friends. In order to enhance your enjoyment, here are some slightly more specific suggestions, categorized according to the area(s) of your life most likely to be affected.

Your Health

2. Stress happens. Over the short term, we can do a pretty good job of dealing with it. It's our body's normal response to the stressors in our environment. We can usually handle our stress over the short term. Trouble comes when the stress response is ongoing for an extended period of time. Then, our sleep can be disrupted, and we might put on some unwelcome weight. Most importantly, our immune system can become compromised when we're subjected to an extended period of stress. One thing we can do is set aside a little time each day to engage in some kind of stress-reducing activity. Anything that "calms us down" will do, whether it consists of reading, listening to music, yoga, meditation, or a hobby, etc.

3. Many of us have been guilty of overeating or drinking too much alcohol during the holidays. Try to eat right and avoid overdoing it with the booze. Either one can bring about sleep problems. It has been well documented that not getting enough sleep causes your body to produce an excessive supply of stress hormone. A vicious cycle now begins, because the stress hormone can cause weight gain even if your caloric intake is not higher than normal. So you can put on weight, even though you were "trying to be good" about not overeating over the holidays.

4. Try your best to avoid being in a big rush to get wherever you're going (on any particular day) during this time of year. Again, you want to do the best you can to avoid a major increase in stress hormone levels.

Your Time

5. Plan ahead. Holidays happen at predictable times each year. The "plan ahead" advice also pertains to avoiding trouble at work. Avoid a huge pile-up of incomplete (but important) tasks at work by using good time-management techniques.

6. Stay connected, but not over-committed. The holidays are a great time to stay connected with family and friends. Getting together with loved ones and friends provides us with a great opportunity to relieve ourselves of some of our stress. Many of us, however, add to our stress levels by over-committing ourselves (and our loved ones) to social events this time of year. Do your best to avoid accepting every single invitation that comes your way.

Your Money

Here are a few tips to avoid both needing to rush to buy gifts and overspending both cash and credit:

7. Many of us have experienced getting swept up in a last-minute gift-buying frenzy, which takes a toll on our time and our pocketbook. The solution is to plan ahead. Gifts for many of the people on your list can be found during other times of the year (e.g., during the summer). You might see something that reminds you of a loved one or friend, and you might think, "What a perfect holiday gift for _____." If you get that gift now (even during the summer), you'll automatically reduce the number of folks you will need gifts for between Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you take care of some gifts before the holidays draw very near, you'll be cutting down on the amount of time you spend looking for that perfect gift and standing in long lines at the post office (or UPS), driving around in search of an empty parking space, etc.

8. Assuming you've obtained many (or at least a few) of your gifts early, try to get them sent to their intended recipients early as well. Again, you'll be cutting down on the amount of time you spend standing in long lines at the post office or UPS.

9. Consider sending some of your gift recipients magazine subscriptions, instead of something more traditional. Sometimes, you can take care of several recipients all at once with this idea. And you can do so with sufficient time for a card to arrive that tells each recipient that you're the one who bought the subscription.

10. If you've succeeded in taking care of your gift-giving obligations ahead of time, then you'll probably not be strapped for cash in those days right before the holidays. Of course, cash is always a welcome gift for the students on your list. In addition, you have not reached the limit on all your credit card(s). So you have some wiggle room to handle what (in some parts of the country) are the inevitable emergency car repairs (e.g., replacing a dead battery, or a leaking radiator, or a failed water pump).


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