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Enjoy the holidays with a minimum level of stress: Dr. Nina Radcliff

Enjoy the holidays with a minimum level of stress: Dr. Nina Radcliff

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Welcome to the holiday season!

And the whirlwind of juggling work, gift-giving, cooking, events with dynamic relationships and all the other “to-dos” and stimulating activities that begins now, builds through Thanksgiving and continues with momentum into the new year.

These holidays can be the most wonderful time — and most stressful time — of the year! But with some helpful, practical tips, you can minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays.

When you think of holiday health, you might think it’s skipping that second piece of pumpkin pie or watching your sugar intake. And, yes, those choices are important, but at the top of the list for managing your holiday health is minimizing the stress that comes with the season.

Jam-packed schedules, tight gift budgets and the pressure to get it all “right” along with how you feel about this holiday can cause toxic stress. Good news is there are steps you can take today to ensure stress doesn’t get the best of you this holiday season — and that you enjoy the holidays!

Holiday tips

Be realistic, flexible and keep your sense of humor. Think about what you want for this holiday season. Determine now what will give it meaning and joy for you. Things won’t always go according to plan, but if you take good care of yourself and what brings you joy, you’ll be able to care for the people and the traditions that mean the most to you.

Take time and make a “must-do” list while identifying a “nice to do” list.

Write down everything you want to accomplish over the course of the season, from social events to family gatherings, to tasks like decorating, baking, shopping and cleaning. Reviewing what is a “must” and what is a “nice to do” helps.

Find ways to trim excess activities so you aren’t overloaded. Long hours, a heavy holiday project load along with changes in routines and a lot of output all add to holiday overload. Be active but not too active. If you need some down time to recharge, do something that relaxes you.

Ask yourself some key questions before saying yes to everything on your list.

Is attending that event considered mandatory — or something you really need to do? A family traditional event you dare not miss? These are the kind of questions to ponder when deciding to say yes.

Importantly, too, are the activities or events something you enjoy or really want to do? Arrange activities to connect with people you love and those who really care for you and lift your spirits. It’s a great stress reliever.

Review how many other events you have scheduled before or right after. For many people, it’s not certain events that cause unwanted stress, it’s the number of certain events close together, without much downtime in between.

Mark dates and make lists! Keep a calendar and make lists of everything from gift ideas (before shopping) to making that special recipe. You can even make a note of what you are going to wear to those special gatherings. As the holidays start to feel overloaded, you can take a glance and assess your plans, objectively.

Acknowledge your feelings. Some relationships can cause turmoil, conflict or stress at any time, but it can become magnified during the holidays. For holiday plans engaging with such relationships, accept that you won’t always see eye to eye. Decide ahead of an event that you won’t engage in arguments. If you are facing the holidays without a loved one, you may find yourself especially feeling stressed, lonely or sad. Look for meaningful ways to enjoy the holidays. Reach out to loved ones and be socially active.

Physical demands. R-e-m-e-m-b-e-r: Shopping, gatherings, preparing holiday meals and delights, as well as all the extras, can wipe you out. Feeling exhausted increases stress, creating a vicious cycle. Exercise and quality sleep are good antidotes for stress and fatigue. Don’t let them take a back seat to errands and demands.

Prioritize self-care. Don’t let healthy habits slide this time of year. It’s about balance — if you know you’ll be having some sweets at a holiday event, choose lighter, healthier meal options the rest of the day. If you have obligations that interrupt your exercise times, move your workout to another time of the day. And remember that a little non-negotiable rest and relaxation can go a long way toward helping you stay merry and bright all season long.

Manage spending. It’s easy to feel the pressure of consumerism during the holidays. Decrease the financial stress by making and sticking to a budget.

I hope you will plan something restorative once a week, even if it’s just curling up with a good book, for an hour or two. Keep this list handy.

And here’s to a great holiday season. Enjoy!

Dr. Nina Radcliff, of Galloway Township, is a physician anesthesiologist, television medical contributor and textbook author. Email questions for Dr. Nina to with “Dr. Nina” in the subject line.


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