BY JANE LANGILLE
EVERY HOLIDAY season, stress is a
force to be reckoned with. Time is short,
yet we want to find perfect gifts, host an
ideal gathering or prepare a perfect meal.
The Canadian Psychological Association
defines stress as the result of demands
and expectations exceeding our ability
to cope. Dr. Marilee Zaharia, a registered psychologist in private practice in
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, says, “Holiday
stress affects everyone, even if they aren’t
stressed at other times of the year.”
The Connection rounded up recommendations by Zaharia, the Canadian
Psychological Association, the Canadian
Mental Health Association and Health
Canada on the best ways to beat holiday
stress and help you make the most of this
Make a plan in advance. Review your
expectations for the holiday season. Are
those your expectations or someone else’s?
Are they realistic? Consider what you
really can and can’t do. Think about your
emotional and financial goals and include
others to manage their expectations too.
Plan how you will handle activities, meals
and gift-giving: Identify action items,
decide who’s responsible and make a
schedule on a calendar, so nothing import-
ant is lost in the shuffle. Avoid scheduling
busy times back to back.
Communicate and delegate. Let go of
doing everything yourself. Ask others to
pitch in—whether that’s bringing a favourite dish, leading activities or helping out
with shopping, decorating and cleaning.
If family members who don’t get along will
be attending, strategize in advance to separate and divide—adjust the seating plan
or keep one of them busy helping out.
Pace yourself. It’s ideal to shop all year,
not at the last minute. But if you’ve already
missed that boat, try to finish shopping a
couple of weeks before seasonal events. Set
a budget in advance and spend only what
you can afford. Older kids can participate in
budget discussions and help with shopping.
Make yourself a priority. Over-indulg-ing in food may feel good in the short term,
but extra pounds can lead to long-term
distress. Keep holiday-related weight gain
and January regret in check with these
tips: Eat a healthy snack before going to
a party, so you don’t overeat; indulge but
take small portions; start dessert with a
piece of fruit, leaving room for just a few
bites of something decadent. Keep up your
gym routine, or at least go for walks to reap
the stress-busting benefits of exercise.
Schedule some quiet time for relaxation.
Focus on what really matters. Spend
quality time together; sharing kindness
and listening has much more value than a
perfect gift or meal. Host a technology-free
event by collecting mobile devices in a basket until it’s time for guests to go home.
FOR YOUR HEALTH
Your local Costco warehouse carries a
variety of health and wellness items, prepared foods, as well as budget-friendly
gifts to keep your holidays at ease.
Set new traditions like taking a sleigh ride
together, trading stories or playing games.
Stick to normal routines to ease grief.
Holidays can resurface strong feelings
about the loss of loved ones. Recognize that
people experience grief differently. Plan
ahead and think about new traditions or
celebrations that could provide helpful
support. Share feelings in healthy ways,
like writing in a journal or talking with
friends. If you or your loved ones still feel
overwhelmed with feelings of sadness or
anxiety, consider professional help.
All of these ideas revolve around setting boundaries, getting organized and
making time for yourself; they are the cornerstones to keeping stress at bay. In doing
so, you may find yourself feeling a bit merrier all season long. C
Jane Langille ( janelangille.com) is a
Toronto-area health and medical writer.
Staying merry in a season of flurry
Tame holiday stress
TO FIND EASE
BALANCE HOLIDAY festivities with meeting your own needs and those of your
family this holiday season. Here’s how:
Take more than just a few days off
work if you can. Give yourself the gift
of a real break.
Prioritize self-care. Book a yoga
class or a massage. Catch up on your
sleep or read a book.
Be creative. Evolve holiday traditions
that involve less work for you and are
more enjoyable for your family. Go sledding on Christmas Day. Buy prepared
foods. Plan a mini hotel getaway.
Say no and set boundaries. Attend
events that you enjoy and send regrets
to those that are an energy drain, or
attend but limit the time you spend there.
Be mindful of your finances and
your health. Spend modestly. Enjoy the
foods of the season, but don’t overdo
it. Treat your money and your body with
respect, even during the holidays.
Prioritize downtime with your
partner and your children. Hang out in
your pyjamas. Play board games. Watch
a family movie together, with popcorn.
These are the most precious moments
of the holidays.
Simplify. Minimize. Do less instead
of more. You’ll be able to relax and
really enjoy the holiday season.
—Carole-Anne Vatcher, MSW RSW