The holidays have snuck up on you, I know! You were moving through your days thinking you had lots of time before having to think about the holidays, but guess what, they are here. With the holidays comes the stress of dealing with the holidays. You never really think about the stress until you are in the thick of holiday planning and then BAM, it hits you like a ton of bricks and if you don’t know how to deal with it, you might crumble underneath the pressure.

Holiday stress often trickles down and adversely affects almost all the areas of your life. Your health falters, you gain weight, your energy levels plummet, your work performance and productivity decreases, and your relationships become rocky. We’ve all been conditioned to perceive the holidays as fun, heart-warming and family centered, but with all the stress that comes with it, how can you possibly enjoy it?

It’s no wonder you’ve come to dread the holidays with all the parties, shopping, cooking, baking, cleaning and entertaining. Learning to recognize holiday stress triggers is a step in the right direction. Usually the triggers are centered on finances and personal demands. Anticipating and managing the triggers can have positive effects on your health through this time.

The following are some tips on how to manage the holiday stress and overwhelm so you can put the enjoyment back into the season.

Plan ahead – Start thinking about your plans for the holidays sooner than later. If you leave the planning, shopping, cooking and cleaning to the last minute then the stress is sure to be compounded. This can result in a harder fall. Look at the calendar and create appointments for all your planning activities. Also, plan your menus and create shopping lists in advance to avoid last minute running around.

Exercise – Maintain your exercise routine. Exercise has been proven to stimulate your endorphins, which are the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. It also helps regulate sleep cycles that can be interrupted with stress. Therefore, exercise puts you in a good mood, and helps to combat holiday anxiety, stress and depression.

Modify recipes for healthier versions – Most holiday recipes are loaded with high amounts of sugar, fat, refined carbohydrates and are lacking in fiber. These ingredients can result in recipes that can wreak havoc on your health and weight. Preparing healthier holiday meals does not mean taste, flavor and appeal need to be sacrificed. Suggested recipe modification includes reducing salt, fat and sugar. Fat can be replaced with applesauce, mashed banana, prune puree, or fruit-based fat replacers sold in supermarkets. Sugar can be reduced and replaced with cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg, or flavorings such as vanilla or almond extracts. Salt can be reduced by half or eliminated completely. Other recipe modifications include replacing enriched grains, such as white pasta, with whole grains, such as brown rice or whole wheat pasta; replace whole milk with reduced fat or fat-free milk; cut out or halve the amount of cheese; scale down the amount of meat, poultry or fish called for in a recipe and replace with more vegetables.

Be realistic and learn to say no – Know your limits and what you can and cannot realistically handle. If you cannot handle attending four parties in one weekend, then don’t. Choose one or two parties you would like to attend and politely turn down the other parties. Others will understand if you say no, because chances are they are finding themselves in the same position. If you have plans to shop or spend time with family members, then avoid planning other activities during this time. The key is to put your priorities into perspective and recognize what is really important. Also remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect, no one is perfect and people may even find solace in your imperfections.

Stick to a budget – Financial constraints are a top stress-causing factor in many families. Sit down with your significant other and devise a realistic budget by analyzing your income compared with your economic outflow. Decide how much money you have to spend before going gift or food shopping. Avoid buying happiness with an abundance of gifts. Too many gifts can be overwhelming for the gift receiver, which can result in a perceived lack of appreciation. If you think your gift receivers are not thankful enough for your gifts, this can result in added stress from arguments or disagreements.

Acknowledge your feelings and ask for help – Seek out support from friends, family, community or licensed health professionals. If you need help shopping or cleaning, enlist a family member. Shopping with a partner can also provide the added benefit of social support. Seeking professional help and talking to someone about your feelings of anxiety, depression or stress can sometimes help alleviate the pressure.

Take control of the holiday season using these tips to avoid added stress. You will enjoy putting the peace, joy and celebration back into this time of year.

Author's Bio: 

Bonnie R. Giller helps chronic dieters break free of the pain of dieting and get the healthy body they love. She does this by creating a tailored solution that combines three essential ingredients: a healthy non-diet mindset, nutrition education and caring support. She utilizes the principles of intuitive eating, which is eating based on internal signals of hunger and satiety versus situations or emotions. The result is they lose weight, keep it off without dieting and live a healthy life of guilt-free eating.

Bonnie is a Registered Dietitian (R.D.), Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist (CDN) and Certified Diabetes Educator (C.D.E.). She is also a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor.

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