Tag Archives: holiday stress

8 Ways to Control Your Holiday Eating

pumpkin-pie-1372787-mOn the best of days, it can be hard to control your eating. The holiday season challenges even the most routine eating habits. You’re running errands and eating on the go. You have holiday parties, family gatherings and lunch with friends.

Adding in the additional stress and changes in your routine, how do you maintain your healthy diet during the holidays?

Here are 8 ways to control your eating and enjoy a happier and healthier holiday season:

Start with the healthy options
Whether you’re sitting around the holiday table, grabbing food off of a buffet or eating on the go, load up on the healthiest items first. Start with a salad, fresh fruit or a veggie dish. Then, choose the whole grains and lean meats. Last, sample a few bites of different desserts. You’ll fill up on the better food choices and eat less of the foods you don’t need.

Concentrate on eating
When you eat with friends, family or co-workers, you may not pay as much attention to what – and how much – you are putting into your mouth. By concentrating on what you’re eating, you will be able to tell when your stomach is letting you know you’re full. If you’re paying attention, you’ll know when to quit rather than mindlessly eating.

Eat slowly
We are always in a hurry and often eat on the go. You may be guilty of stuffing your mouth full of food and hurrying to swallow it down. Do you even really taste the foods you’re eating? Chew slowly and really savor the food in your mouth. Taking it slow will also give you time to realize that you’re full, rather than finding out later that you are over-stuffed with food.

Plan on leftovers
Most families serve way too much food at the holidays. It’s best to assume that you will have leftovers instead of feeling you have to eat it all. Making two meals out of what you might have eaten in one sitting will help you control how much you eat.

Be in charge of your stomach
Your well-meaning mother-in-law or aunt may try to push food on you. The people who cook the food usually enjoying seeing others eat the food. They want you to try every dish and give your opinion. If you’re feeling full, politely let them know you aren’t hungry now, but you’ll be sure to try it later. Or, offer to take it home as leftovers.

Snack healthy
As you’re running errands or preparing food ahead of time, make sure you choose healthy snacks. Rather than sampling the food you’re making, have a banana, grapes, carrot sticks or a handful of nuts to keep you from getting too hungry. If you sit down to eat and you’re starving, you are more likely to overeat.

Rest after eating
When you’ve finished a meal, take a few minutes to rest. Give your stomach time to digest before you go back to running errands or attending the next holiday gathering. It’s also good to take a few minutes to relax and recharge to keep your stress levels down. Running yourself ragged and becoming stressed can lead to eating unhealthy food choices.

Find new sources of comfort
If eating comfort foods is a way for you to cope with stress or handle holidays with the family, try doing something different. Call a friend, go outside for a walk in the sun, read a book or take up a hobby that keeps you occupied. The goal is to distract yourself from making unhealthy food choices during the chaos of the holidays.

You can maintain your healthy eating habits during the holiday season. Keep these tips in mind as you run your holiday errands, fix festive dishes or attend holiday parties!


12 Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

christmas-lights-1435376-mIt’s time we all admitted it: The holidays are stressful. The average American spends about 42 hours on holiday activities. Money concerns and hectic schedules are typically the top sources of stress.

This time of year is truly magical. From Thanksgiving to Christmas and New Year’s, we spend time with family and friends, making delicious treats, listening to seasonal music and enjoying the spirit of the holidays.

Then, why does it make us so crazy? For most of us, we want the holidays to be perfect. We want to impress our families or make magical memories for our kids. Yet, if we turn into a screaming shrew while trying to decorate the tree and fix holiday dishes, it definitely takes some of the joy out of the holidays.

Here are 12 tips to help you manage your stress and create a truly enjoyable holiday season:

Lower your expectations
For those of us who tend to be perfectionists, we are stressed all year round. We set expectations for ourselves – and those around us – that are so high that it’s unrealistic they will be met. Then, we feel like we failed and become more anxious and stressed. The holidays only amplify these feelings.

What can you do? Lower your expectations and focus on what is realistic. Think about what really matters and simplify your to-do list. You will be able to accomplish what you want without sacrificing your sanity.

Take a breath and “let it go”
When you feel your mind is racing and things are out of control, take a deep breath and let it go. Focus on your breathing. Stop what you’re doing, close your eyes and concentrate on breathing in and out until you feel more relaxed. Let go of the things you cannot control and ask yourself if the things you’re stressing about really matter in the grand scheme of life. Most likely, they probably don’t.

Delegate part of your list
Another way to lower your stress level is to delegate part of your to-do list. You don’t have to do everything by yourself. You can delegate your house cleaning to a cleaning service. You can give everyone in your family a holiday job, such as putting lights on the house, wrapping presents or addressing holiday cards.

Get a handle on your finances
One of the most stressful parts of the holidays can be worrying about money. Your job situation may have changed and money may be tighter than normal. Doing everything you want during the holidays can put a strain on your budget. Set a shopping budget – know who you’re buying for and how much you want to spend on each person. Also, plan for extra groceries, decorations and travel expenses. If your budget is really tight, consider making homemade gifts. When you receive a handcrafted gift, you know it comes from the heart and it often means more.

Learn to say no
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it may be time to exercise your right to say no. People will understand if you can’t participate in every project and activity. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and anxious.

Switch up your traditions
You used to take the kids caroling and then watch old holiday movies. Now, no one wants to do it with you. You may need to make adjustments to your holiday traditions as time goes by. It’s not about the event itself, but spending time with your family and making new memories. Drop the stressful family traditions and do something simple, like having hot chocolate and waffles while you decorate the tree.

Practice peacemaking
Family misunderstandings and conflicts are only magnified during the holidays. Think of some ways you can head off any bad feelings or disagreements before they go too far. If you have house guests, consider planning time for you or them to be out of the house for a few hours. You can go to yoga class or take a walk around the neighborhood. Your guests might be able to visit other relatives or go see a movie.

Give yourself a break
It’s important to take time for yourself during the holidays. Block out a couple of hours every few days to rest or do something you enjoy. Treat yourself to a massage or manicure. Take a bubble bath with scented candles or read a book.

Eat well
Food is a big part of the holiday season. Make sure you are eating foods that help decrease stress. You can improve your mood and energy level with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dark leafy greens, beans, fish and nuts.

Enjoy your exercise
Find a physical activity that will help you clear your mind and energize your body, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Dance around the living room to holiday music with your kids, play sports-related video games or do kickboxing. Go outside for a walk and soak up the sunshine.

Call a friend
If you’re feeling stressed out, call a friend to vent. Your friends can help you feel better and relate to your problems. Just be sure to return the favor and listen to their holiday woes.

Go to bed
While you may feel like you need to deprive yourself of sleep to get more done, lack of sleep can turn into a vicious cycle. The less you sleep, the more tired, out of sorts and overwhelmed you feel. Try to get 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. If you don’t get things done, it can wait until tomorrow or not get done at all. You may need to adjust your expectations so that you can stay rested and healthy.

By planning ahead and preparing for the chaos of the holidays, you can keep your stress under control. Make it a point to manage your stress and enjoy the holiday season.

9 tips for avoiding the holiday blues

christmas tree holiday blues depressionThere is no getting around it – the holidays are stressful. We have posted before about learning to say “no” to holiday stress and how to survive relationship stress during the holidays.

We are overloaded with responsibilities, and we tend to have higher expectations for ourselves and others from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. What can you do to keep that stress from turning into the holiday blues or depression?

First, let’s take a look at the common triggers that can lead to the holiday blues:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Financial concerns
  • Family conflict
  • Lack of sleep and fatigue
  • Bad memories
  • Unhealthy choices

Here are 9 ways to combat these holiday depression triggers and keep your spirits bright during the holidays:

Set realistic expectations
It’s easy to get caught up in the pressure to create the perfect holiday. You want to find the best gifts, decorate everything just so, prepare a wonderful meal and be a gracious hostess. By trying to do it all, we put extra stress on ourselves – and our loved ones – during the holidays.

If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed by your to-do list and no longer enjoying the process of preparing for the holidays, it may be time to cut back. Ask your family what they like the most about the holidays and concentrate on making those areas special. Enlist their help and create memories together.

Create a holiday budget
Overspending during the holiday season can also put a damper on your spirits. It’s harder to enjoy the holidays if you are feeling stressed about your finances. Make a budget that includes decorating, food, gifts, travel and even New Year’s Eve plans. Then, stick to it.

Plan for family conflict
If you know there will be conflicts at Christmas or New Year’s gatherings, prepare yourself and your immediate family ahead of time. Be ready to offer a neutral response to diffuse an argument. Then, remove yourself from the situation by offering to help out in the kitchen or spending time with the kids. If the idea of family gatherings seems more stressful and depressing than positive and enjoyable, you may want to consider making it a brief visit, staying home or creating a new holiday tradition.

Get some sleep
Holiday activities and planning can cut into your sleep schedule. You may be spending more evenings attending social events. You may stay up late to wrap presents or address your holiday cards. Studies show that there can be a link between depression and sleep loss. Make sure you are getting enough sleep so that you feel rested and ready to tackle the day.

Learn to grieve
If you have lost someone close to you, the holidays can be especially difficult and you may feel more down than other times of the year. You may be angry at the person for leaving you alone during the holidays. On the other hand, you may feel guilty if you enjoy yourself. Give yourself permission to grieve and also give yourself permission to enjoy the holidays.

Keep up good habits
t’s easy to get derailed from your healthy habits during the holiday season. Try to maintain your good habits, such as eating right, exercising, sleeping and managing stress. Just because you overindulge at the dessert table doesn’t mean you should give up on your goals. Start fresh the next day with your regular routine.

Exercise is one of the first things to go in the holiday shuffle. Be sure to keep to your regular routine – it will help you ward off stress and the holiday blues. Try not to use alcohol to cope with holiday depression. Alcohol can intensify your emotions and leave you feeling worse. Also, be safe on New Year’s Eve.

Get some sunshine
The dark, dreary days of winter may also affect your mood during the holidays. You may experience seasonal affective disorder or SAD. Approximately 10-20% of people in the US may experience a mild case of SAD that can be compounded by holiday stress. Try to get some sunshine if you can, or you may want to talk to your doctor about light therapy.

Give back
While it’s great to volunteer or donate to charity any time of year, it can help put things into perspective during the chaotic holiday season. Make it a family tradition to volunteer and help those who are having a difficult time. Or, choose a charity together and make a donation.

Remember what matters
It’s easy to get caught up in the over-commercialization of the holidays. Remember what’s important during the holiday season. Spend time with people who make you laugh and smile. Stick with simple traditions so you aren’t overwhelmed by planning and expenses.

Focus on what is meaningful to you and your family, and you will create a fun, memorable holiday season. What are your favorite holiday traditions?

9 tips to surviving holiday relationship stress

Holiday table relationshp stressI love the holidays – that magical time from Thanksgiving to New Years. At the same time, a little part of me dreads the holiday season.

It can be one of the most stressful times of year, especially when it comes to our relationships. We have more tasks to get done, we’re pulled in multiple directions, we want to make everything perfect, and we tend to lash out at those closest to us.

Here are 9 tips to make sure you maintain healthy relationships and have an enjoyable holiday season this year:

Have realistic expectations
The biggest mistake many of us make is wanting to have everything perfect and create the best holiday ever. Whether it’s the food, the decorations or the holiday gifts, you probably have something that is your favorite part of the season. I have a friend who puts up eight Christmas trees in her house every year. My mother enjoys cooking the holiday meals for our family.

If it’s something you enjoy doing, then keep up the tradition. If you find yourself stressed out and snapping at everyone, then it may be time to tone it down. More than likely, your family doesn’t care about it nearly as much as you do. They would be happy with less extravagance if it means you are able to fully enjoy the holiday season.

Ask for help
I am a control freak. I am the worst at asking for help when I get overwhelmed by all the things I need to accomplish. Your family and friends would rather help you than see you stressed. You can actually spend quality time with friends and relatives by asking them to pitch in with holiday traditions. Kids especially like to feel they are part of the festivities. You may even be able to create new traditions.

Say thank you
When you’re in “get it all done” mode, you may forget to show others your appreciation. Go out of your way to thank your spouse, kids, family members and friends when they do something for you. You may assume they know they are appreciated, but it’s always nice to hear “thank you.”

Set your priorities
Decide what is most important to you. I used to make handmade Christmas cards to send to family and friends. I loved creating the card design and putting them together. I would get together with friends, and we would visit and work on our cards. At some point, I began to dread doing my holiday cards. The stress of getting the cards done outweighed the joy of sending cards, so I stopped doing it.

You have to prioritize what is most important to you and make sure you have the time to do it all. If you don’t, then cut back. Your spouse and children will be much happier about living in the same house with you.

Divide and conquer
During the holiday season, we have more events to attend. You may have work commitments, gatherings with friends, and family festivities. On top of that, you and your partner may not necessarily like attending each other’s events. Your spouse may have an annual party with his old college friends, and you may like to trim the tree at your grandparents’ house. It’s okay to go to events by yourself if it will eliminate relationship stress. Or, you can take separate cars so that one of you can leave earlier.

Make family time count
It’s so easy to get caught up in running everywhere and fitting in as many activities as possible. You may forget to include some downtime into your schedule. Plan an evening to hang out at home watching movies with popcorn and candy. Go out to eat and give the cook a break. Have family game night. Your family should know they are the most important part of the holiday season.

Learn to say no
It’s hard for many of us to say “no,” especially during the holiday season. You feel like you’re a bad person if you don’t help out with the annual office party, neighborhood charity event or holiday program at your kids’ school. You can say no. Think about your priorities and decide what you can do without sacrificing quality time with your family and your own happiness. If you feel anxiety instead of joy and excitement, then politely decline.

Spend time with friends
Our friends can give us a reality check. Set aside time to hang out with your good friends during the holiday season. Not only is it fun, but they will also be honest with you and help you decide what matters and what to let go. And, spending time with friends is just good for your health.

Give yourself a break
If you start to feel overwhelmed by your to-do list and responsibilities, give yourself a break. Set aside some time to do something you enjoy. You can take a walk, go for a drive, window shop or play with your kids. Just give yourself a break so that you can relax and recharge.

The stress of the holiday season can strain our relationships. Cut yourself some slack and remember to take the time to balance your commitments with maintaining healthy relationships with your family and friends.

How to say NO to holiday stress

holiday stressAs I sit here glaring at the lights on my Christmas tree, I can’t help but think they  shouldn’t be irritating me this much. I have replaced the top string of lights twice this year. Guess what, it’s not working – AGAIN!

I need to wrap presents, clean my house, get my brother’s gift in the mail, bake cookies for school, and address my Christmas cards. Oh wait, first I need to buy Christmas cards.

The holidays are one of the most magical times of the year. It’s a time to gather with friends and family. Memories are made. Traditions are created. We count our blessings and rejoice in the reason for the season.

The holidays can also be one of the most stressful times of the year. We feel obligated to say “yes” to every request and every invitation.

Say “no” to the stress and “yes” to a happy, healthy holiday season:

Keep your healthy routine
It’s easy to drop our healthy eating habits and exercise routines when we become overwhelmed with holiday tasks and commitments. Make it a point to continue eating right. You can indulge in tasty treats while at events and gatherings, but keep up your good habits at home. Find time to exercise. Not only will it help you relieve holiday stress, you will feel good about staying on track.

Shop online
I do almost all of my holiday shopping online after my kids go to bed. You can find good deals and free shipping on most of the items you want. You avoid the stress of malls, crowds and traffic. And it’s so exciting when a delivery shows up at your door!

Give thoughtful gifts
Part of the holiday stress is spending beyond your means or financial budget. Think of gifts you can give that may be less expensive but have more meaning for the recipient. Or, suggest a gift exchange for family members or a group of coworkers. It is the spirit of the season that truly matters, not the material things.

Stay home
If you feel like you are running from one commitment to another, choose a few parties and say no. Spend time at home instead doing something fun as a family. Start a new tradition of having sappy holiday movie night or board game night. You may not remember all of the holiday parties, but you will remember the memories you make as a family.

Get some sleep
When you get enough sleep, your body can rest and be ready for the next day. You will be less sleep deprived and more ready to cope with whatever holiday crises come your way. You will just feel better.

Do something nice
Give your neighbor a hand putting up his lights. Offer to help a stressed-out friend with her holiday cooking or cleaning. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, collect toys for a toy drive, or take homemade goodies to the nursing home. Your generous spirit can brighten the holidays for others in need.

I am constantly reminding myself that these moments are fleeting. My kids will probably tell their kids about the year I couldn’t get the Christmas tree lights to work. They have found it quite humorous. It will make a great story… some day.

It’s the little moments, the memories, and the spirit of the season that make the holidays special. So, say “no” to some of your commitments this year and say “yes” to a relaxing, memorable holiday season.