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Tips for Reducing Stress this Holiday Season

The holidays are officially here! Beautifully decorated homes, the smells of holiday baking, time with friends and family, shopping for the perfect gift for loved ones and holiday parties are all part of the experience. In fact, I can hardly wait for the sappy Lifetime Christmas movies to begin! Yes, the holidays are here. My time is already at a premium, and now I have to find time to drag out all the Christmas decorations and turn my house into a winter-wonderland, do the necessary baking, get to the malls to compete with the thousands of other people out trying to find the “perfect gift” for their loved ones, spending time with people I don’t really like at the mandatory holiday parties and gatherings. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, I am bombarded by “made-for-TV movies” that remind me that my holidays will never be enough. I don’t have enough money, food, presents, decorations, joy or ability to create family memories. And the stress begins … As wonderful as the holidays can be, the excess stress that many times accompany the holidays can wreak havoc on our physical and emotional well-being. But with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would. This year, I am taking the necessary steps to really enjoy the magic of the season with as little stress as possible. Maybe some of my strategies will help you enjoy your holidays with decreased stress and anxiety. Instead of trying to set up our Christmas decorations in between other errands, Mark and I set aside enough time to enjoy the process. We turned up our favorite Christmas tunes and really enjoyed setting the house up for the magic of Christmas through the eyes of our 2-1/2-year-old grandson. Our 3-month-old twin grandsons won’t appreciate the magic this year, but we are setting the stage for future memory-making opportunities. We even pulled up a few ideas off Pinterest and enjoyed creating DIY projects. I took the time (that I didn’t think I had) to go with a good friend to Milwaukee so that we could spend the day together making our own Christmas clock. There were a million reasons that I tried to come up with as to why I couldn’t take the time out to do this. In the end, I gave up stressing about all the things I still had to do and just allowed myself the day to enjoy being with a friend. What an amazing day! I couldn’t believe how relaxing it was to cut, glue and glitter. I got lost in the experience for just the right amount of time, and in the end, came home with a Christmas clock for the mantel. My daughters and I will get together next weekend to do our cookie baking. By doing it together, we end up with a broader variety of cookies and get to spend time together. At the end of the day, we divvy up the cookies and plate them so that we can just pull out a platter of homemade cookies from the freezer when the need arises. The other benefit for me is that my opportunity for eating the cookies is significantly lessened because I am with other people, and the cookies get plated and leave the house that day. For any cookies that I freeze, I triple wrap the trays and tape them closed so that my temptation to sneak a cookie or two is diminished. Now is not the time to abandon your healthy eating and exercise plan. You will have more energy, and exercise is a natural stress reliever. I began a structured eating program on Monday with about 10 others to set the tone for my health during this season of indulgence. I will have a lot less stress in 2015 without an additional 5 to 10 pounds to start the year with! I love shopping and buying gifts for family and friends. Mark and I don’t charge anything during the holidays. It doesn’t always go as planned because there are always those last-minute gifts that catch us by surprise. By paying cash for our gifts, we are forced to stay within a budget, and we aren’t still paying for the holidays well into the summer. Maybe it is my age, but I am choosing to spend my time with the people that I enjoy being with. I am working at being discerning with my social time. I don’t have to go to every event, and I don’t have to spend hours mingling with people I don’t know. It isn’t always cut and dried, and there are events that I attend that may involve being with people I don’t know or enjoy. But again, I choose not to be confrontational and limit the time together so that we really can enjoy ourselves without any negative outcomes. We will be going to our favorite Christmas show this weekend. For us, it is this event that makes us feel in the Christmas spirit. What event or activity makes the holidays “real” for you? Take the time to go and get in “the mood” for the holidays. If things go as planned, Mark and I will be so stress free that we may even have enough time to sit by the fire and watch a few of those “sappy” Christmas movies. I wish you all a very stress free and enjoyable holiday season! Carla Linder-Mayer grew up in Naperville. She and her husband, Mark, have been married since 1977 and raised their three children here. She owns Reality Fitness, 39 ½ W. Jefferson Ave. in Naperville. Contact her at 630-357-7087.

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