Newswise — The holidays are a festive time of year filled with friends and family. But with our focus so much on others, we can forget ourselves and become inexplicably stressed and sad. The key to enjoying the upcoming season is being aware of the things (and people) that affect us:
1. Manage your expectations: With so much going on, particularly with other people, this may not be the best time to expect perfection. Don’t set yourself up for undue stress by hosting parties for dozens of people, complete with a gourmet menu and stunning décor. Starting with modest and achievable expectations increases the likelihood that you will avoid disappointment.
2. Add a good night’s sleep to your “to-do” list”: Don’t deprive yourself of sleep to get more done. Sleep deprivation is a major mood killer—consider scaling back your to-do list and get some rest. An irritable host will be noticed long before the place cards and napkin rings that you stayed up until 2 a.m. to finish.
3. Mind your sleep schedule over the holidays: Sleep is a major factor in mood. With a holiday schedule full of late night parties, hours of travel, shopping, cooking and cleaning you quickly find yourself deprived of a few hours night after night. Adopting a sleep schedule that is radically different from the schedule you keep during the year can produce jetlag-like symptoms of fatigue, insomnia, and poor mood. Children are especially susceptible to this: watch your young child’s mood disintegrate with a later and more varied holiday schedule.
4. Avoid “crashing”: The holidays are filled with foods that initially boost our mood and then produce longer term sugar crashes, sluggishness, and bloating. Eat healthy meals throughout the holidays and snack on healthier options such as fruits and vegetables before a party so that you are less likely to fill up on junk food and sweets. Including healthier foods in your diet will stabilize your blood sugar, rather than cause it to spike, which means a happier and more energetic you.
5. Know your limits: We all know the holidays can be a prime time for the airing of family issues and grievances. If visiting a particular relative ruins the holidays for you, devise a new plan that limits your exposure to that person or situation. If having dinner with a cantankerous aunt leaves you with resentment and ill feelings for days afterwards, skip it. It’s better to exercise good self-care over the holidays than to agree to plans that will result in a tense atmosphere and hurt feelings.
6. Make time for you: People often forget to prioritize themselves throughout the year and it gets even worse over the holidays. Take some time just for yourself. If you haven’t had a chance to do this during the day, set aside time before bed to wind down and relax. Even a half hour walk or soak in the tub at the end of the day will make a world of difference.
7. Still tossing and turning all night?: If you find yourself lying in bed with visions of budgets, menus and obligations running through your head – get out of bed. Leave your room to find something that relaxes you and return to bed when you are sleepy. Being upset or awake in the place where you should be finding rest can lead to longer term associations between your bed and stress and anxiety.
For more Holiday Tip Sheets please visit Ryerson University's Holiday Media Room at http://www.ryerson.ca/news/media/spotlight/holiday2010/
FACULTY EXPERT AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEWS:Dr. Colleen CarneyProfessor, Department of PsychologyDirector, Sleep and Depression LabRyerson University