Take Care of Yourself First to Stay Merry and Bright this Holiday Season

Hanukkah has started and Christmas Day is just one week away, quickly followed by Kwanzaa and New Years. This special time is synonymous with spending time with family and friends, feasting, opening presents, attending holiday parties and more. However, too often we lose the meaning behind what makes this time of year special by getting overwhelmed with our holiday to-do lists. Amid the rush of last minute shopping, wrapping and baking stress can take the “ho-ho-ho” out of the festivities.

According to Everyday Health (http://bit.ly/1wZYocY), stress can cause forgetfulness and concentration loss, acne, headaches, nausea and a weakened immune system. Here are some tips to help de-stress so you can enjoy every minute of holiday magic:

Plan Ahead: Balancing numerous responsibilities and expectations is one of the primary causes of stress during the holidays, especially during the final days of preparation. Plan ahead to manage your time. Some things can wait; make lists to prioritize tasks and take care of the most urgent matters first. Utilize evenings after the kids are asleep to wrap gifts or address Christmas cards while cookies are baking in the oven. Don’t forget to schedule time for the fun stuff also: watching holiday movies, decorating the tree or going ice-skating.

Exercise. The importance of this can’t be reiterated enough. Exercising is one of the best ways to relieve stress. Whether running, walking, doing yoga, lifting weights or skiing—get moving! Health.com promotes physical activity, which give you natural stress relieving endorphins and boost your mood for up to 12 hours (http://bit.ly/1wGrlIL). You will also sleep better if you keep active – and sleep is key to stress reduction. Plus, a little daily sweat will keep those extra pounds off and ensure you feel great at every holiday party!

Eat Well. We are what we eat. Eating well is essential for improving overall mood and staying stress free. Eating unhealthy foods can make us feel sluggish and tired, not to mention adding unnecessary pounds during an already indulgent time of year. Make sure you eat breakfast everyday, especially before shopping and baking marathons, to feel full and satisfied. Pack a granola bar, some fresh veggies or a few hard-boiled eggs to eat on the go when hunger strikes rather than resorting to fast food or treats. When you do try those cookies or sweet treats, add something with protein to temper the sugar high – and low.

Practice Mindfulness. We can spend far too much time looking forward to and preparing for an upcoming event that we forget to enjoy the present – and the event. Stop and look around to see all you have for which to be grateful. In addition – try as much as possible to stick with your normal routine—continue book club, yoga, or whatever ‘me’ time you take for yourself. Living in the now can help you appreciate what you already have, rather than thinking about what isn’t done. Watch a holiday movie with your kids, go-out for a romantic date night—before we know it, the season will be past. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, close your eyes and take three or four deep breaths to re-center your mood. And remember the joy of the season – research shows that doing a small something that’s nice for someone else – as simple as smiling – will improve your day even more than theirs.

Say no. Learning to say no is important for staying stress free. Getting caught up trying to please everyone makes us forget about ourselves. If you don’t have time to do a favor for a friend or committing to another social engagement might increase stress levels, it’s fine to say no. Sometimes, simply accepting that not everything needs to be perfect can greatly reduce stress. Again, prioritize what is most important, and be willing to let some other stuff slide in favor of your mental well-being.

Appreciate the true magic of the season by keeping your stress in check. Have other tips to keep calm and still celebrate? Share them with us in the comments below.