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TMH Living Well: Tips for a low stress holiday season

The Memorial Hospital

Holidays are often filled with joy and fun but also stress. For many people, holidays create a long list of obligations and interrupt comfortable routines. For some, holidays bring up hard memories or accentuate feelings of loneliness.

The best way to avoid stress and depression over the holidays is to stay aware and watchful. If Uncle Joe starts a political rant that makes your blood pressure rise, graciously exit the room. If you feel sadness over the death of a loved one, acknowledge your feelings and find a safe person and place to express it. If you feel pulled this way and that, thoughtfully decide what events you really want to attend, and decline most of the rest. In other words, take care of yourself and honor your truths.

Here are some tips that will help you stay on track for a low-stress holiday season:

Stay realistic

Your holiday doesn’t have to be a Norman Rockwell painting of perfection. You don’t have to show up for every event or stun the world with your creative gifts and exuberant cheer. Instead, pick a few meaningful traditions and events and carry them out well. Attend those that feed your interest and include people you truly care about and enjoy.

“Try not to get focused on having the perfect Hollywood Thanksgiving or Christmas. Instead, keep things simple. You don’t have to have the best-decorated house or the biggest event. If you are having a dinner, make it a potluck. If you need to bring a gift, make it homemade,” said Neilene Folks, PA-C, physician assistant with The Memorial Hospital Medical Clinic.

Spending more than you can afford on gifts is stressful. You don’t have to break the bank to create great holiday gifts for the kids. Remember, they don’t need everything on their list to have a wonderful Christmas.

“Your children will remember the time spent together frolicking in the snow or playing games with the family long after the thrill of the gifts is gone,” Folks said.

Stick to your healthy habits

It’s tempting to see the holidays as a free-for-all. Yet overindulgence of sweets and skipping your usual physical activities will leave you feeling stressed, fatigued and out-of-sorts. As best you can, maintain these routines.

“The holidays are the best time of year to exercise. Exercising helps you kick out endorphins, which helps reduce stress and your reaction to stress. If you don’t have an exercise plan, it’s a good time to start one,” Folks said.

She advises people to get outside this time of year to combat the drudgery of shorter days and less sunlight, and to increase sun exposure to help boost levels of Vitamin D as low levels can lead to fatigue, adding to the overall stress people feel during the holidays.

Eating a healthy diet, drinking lots of water, getting enough sleep and limiting fats, carbohydrates, alcohol, caffeine and sweets will keep you feeling good and give you energy to endure all that comes your way.

Find your calm

In the middle of the hustle and bustle, stop. Remember to take time for yourself, even if it’s just 15 minutes alone without distractions to take a walk or do a favorite activity. Acknowledge your feelings. Share them, write about them, or release them by listening to music or getting out in nature.

“Do what relaxes you, especially during busy times. Times of relaxation will help you control your stress and let you avoid the symptoms of stress, including fatigue, irritability, frequent illnesses and poor sleep,” Folks said.

TMH Medical Clinic is currently accepting new patients. The clinic accepts most insurance plans including Medicaid, Medicare and CHIP, and offers a sliding scale where needed. To make an appointment, call 970-826-2400.


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