The countdown to Christmas has begun. Tis the season for holiday music, mistletoe, Christmas shopping, waiting in line and stress!
On Black Friday as I stood in line, one that went from the very front to the very back of an Old Navy store, I asked myself, "Why do we do this?" By this, I don't just mean the Black Friday shopping, which is a tradition for the females in my family, but all the holiday stresses and pressures that we go through each year.
While the holidays should be a time of celebration and enjoyment with friends and family, I often approach the holidays with a great deal of anxiety. We tell ourselves to plan ahead, to get things done early, and say things will be different this year. But, almost inevitably, Christmas Eve rolls around with presents still to wrap, recipes to make and shopping left to do. A stress free holiday seems just about impossible, but here are some suggestions for reducing seasonal stresses.
Be the Early Bird
I once knew a family that had all of their presents wrapped and under the tree by Thanksgiving. I am honest enough with myself to know that's never going to be me. But, I think that having all the presents purchased and wrapped a week before Christmas is doable.
Another upside to starting early is you can keep a lookout for good deals. Black Friday is usually the best time to shop, because things are drastically discounted. While, the closer you get to Christmas day the more likely things are to sell out.
Savor the Season
There is pressure from society and retailers to get the perfect present. There's pressure from kids to get the it toy of the year. And there's pressure from family members or friends to throw and/or attend parties and functions.
But, ask yourself, what does Christmas mean to me? Think carefully about what your favorite things are and what you want to prioritize. I always enjoy going to see A Christmas Carol. Even though I've seen it so many times, something about a live performance makes it new every time. It's a great story that always puts things in perspective.
Whether it's an old tradition from when you were a kid or one that you start, it's important to take the time to do things that you can't do other times of the year. Preferably something that involves giving or reminds you of charity, peace and the positive messages of Christmas.
Take Care of Yourself
During the holidays more than ever, it's important to treat yourself and your body right. According to "The 'Merry Christmas Coronary' and 'Happy New Year Heart Attack' Phenomenon," an article from the American Heart Association Journal, there are significantly more heart attacks in December and January, specifically around Christmas and New Years, than any other time of the year. The culprit? Primarily, stress.
In terms of heart-health, the article advises avoiding "excess physical exertion...overeating, lack of sleep, emotional stress, illegal drugs, and anger...excess salt and alcohol intake." Does any of this sound familiar? Because, this pretty much sounds like my Christmas, minus the illegal drugs.
Avoiding these may be easier said than done, but it's a good idea to minimize these factors as much as possible. Think before you add that extra item to your plate, drink a little less alcohol and a little more water and get those extra Zs when you can.
Even if you're not immediately concerned with your heart, taking care of yourself overall will make you feel less stressed, grumpy and agitated.