Feeling more frazzled than dazzled this holiday season? You’re not alone. “Many of us feel stressed this time of year because of the multiple demands of holiday shopping, family gatherings, parties and the physical, financial and emotional tensions associated with these events,” says Patricia Van Egmond, mental health educator with the Canadian Mental Health Association in London, Ont. Thankfully, you don’t have to hide out at the North Pole to save your sanity. Van Egmond recommends combating holiday stress with these tips:
Plan ahead Before you agree to host the neighbourhood cookie exchange or attend a potluck party, stop and ask yourself if these are things you really want to do and can make time for or whether you should pass. Feeling guilty? Consider your family and other responsibilities. “Make a list of everything that takes up your time; you’ll see it’s enormous and then when someone asks you to do something that’s not on your list, say, ‘That’s a wonderful idea, but I really can’t do it this year,'” says Van Egmond. “Respect yourself and your family enough to say ‘No’ so that you’re not completely overwhelmed.”
Walk in the snow It’s easy to nix workout plans when you’re up to your elbows in wrapping paper. Yet sticking to an exercise routine will pay off over the season. “Exercise releases endorphins, the happy hormones which sweep away the stress hormones that develop throughout the day,” says Van Egmond. Work out early in the day over the holiday season; later on you’ll find more excuses to bypass exercise in favour of running holiday errands. So, bundle up and hit the snowy streets for a brisk walk, or try one of Chatelaine’s calorie-busting winter workouts.
Pencil in me-time Schedule one hour every day to rejuvenate your mind and body: soak in the tub, read a book or send the family out and just putter around the house and enjoy the quiet, anything that gives you solace. And get the sleep your body needs. “Sleep is nature’s own stress-management technique,” says Van Egmond. “When you sleep, you breathe more deeply and slowly, your heart rate and blood pressure go down and you replenish certain brain chemicals that affect mood.” If you find your looming to-do list is making it difficult to sleep, we’ve got 29 tips to help you get some satisfying shut-eye.