To Your Health: Are the holidays stressing you out?

ornament3The holidays are a time of joy, good tidings and memory-making.

But let’s face it: They’re also pretty stressful. Big crowds. Hectic schedules. Financial worries. And, um, family gatherings.

WebMD reports the average American spends about 42 hours on end-of-year holiday activities – shopping, baking, decorating, entertaining, merry-making and so on.

A few years ago, Mental Health America asked people what their top holiday anxieties were. Finances, missing a loved one and having too much to do were at the top of the list.

But there are some things you can do to reduce your holiday stress — and ensure you’re actually enjoying the holidays.

Here are 10 tips, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic:

1. Acknowledge your feelings. Don’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season. If you’ve recently gone through a difficult time or if you’re mourning the loss of a loved one, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief.

2. Reach out. If you feel lonely, isolated or overwhelmed, look for support from friends, family or community groups. Volunteering your time to help others is a great way to lift your spirits and make new friends.

3. Be realistic: You don’t have to have a Martha Stewart holiday. Do what you can afford. And remember, It’s not your table-setting that’s important, it’s who’s at the table.

4. Set aside differences. We’ve all seen the epic fights in holiday movies. And let’s face it, getting family or friends together can sometimes result in tensions and disagreements. Try to put that away for the season, and accept people for who they are. Ask them to do the same for you.

5. Stick to a budget. Decide how much money you want to spend over the holiday season, and stick to your budget.

6. Plan ahead: Put together a game plan for tackling big projects, like baking holiday goodies or shopping. Make sure to schedule enough time so that you’re not always watching the clock.

7. Learn to say no. You don’t have to do everything. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, politely refuse that invitation or take a break from the holiday madness with a cup of herbal tea.

8. Don’t abandon healthy habits. Be mindful about your food choices and indulge in moderation. Overindulgence will only add to your stress load – now you’ll be fretting about your jeans size – and you won’t feel any better for it. Also, be sure to get plenty of sleep and exercise.

9. Take a breather. Amid the chaos, give yourself some time to breathe. Take a walk at night to clear your head. Listen to soothing music. Find something that helps you de-stress.

10. Seek professional help if you need it. Sometimes what you think is holiday stress might be something more. If you find yourself persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and feeling hopeless or unable to face routine chores, reach out to your doctor or a mental health professional.

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