Ahh, the holidays.
Between decorating, shopping, cooking, working, family gatherings, entertaining and partying, well, there can be more holiday stress than holiday cheer.
But it doesn't have to be that way.
STEP ONE IS TO KEEP YOUR MIND AND BODY GOING, BY SIMPLY LETTING THE LIGHT IN: Sunlight stimulates the production of feel-good serotonin and helps relieve Seasonal Affective Disorder. Even is you don't have SAD, the long, dark days can make you feel tired and can affect your circadian rhythms, which respond naturally to light and dark, so the more sunlight you can get, the better you'll feel. Even on a cloudy day, just being outside for a short time will be helpful. Increasing the light indoors will help, too. So, sit by a window, get out, and if it's cold, walking will warm you up, and the light will help keep you calm.
LAUGHTER CAN BE THE BEST MEDICINE FOR RELAXING DURING THE HOLIDAYS: Laughing is literally physiologically healthy for you. Even if you start out with a fake laugh, it can boost your mood. So, watch your favorite comedies, play a game of "Ha-Ha," do anything that will make you laugh. The news is often depressing, many TV programs are tense and scary, so rent a comedy or watch your favorite sitcoms, and it will make you feel good.
SNACK YOUR STRESS AWAY!: If you go too long between meals, you'll get over-hungry, your mood can tank, and that's when you find yourself over-reacting to the smallest situations. But remember to keep your snacking healthy. Just a handful of nuts, or some protein, will help keep you calm, and keep you from overeating at your next meal. And go for honey instead of sugar. Put a little honey into a cup of tea, or drizzle it into yogurt with some fruit. It's a healthy form of sugar, so healthy, in fact, it's been approved by the FDA as a topical wound healer!
WHEN IT COMES TO FAMILY MEALS, OUT MAY BE BETTER THAN IN: If your family members tend to pick on one another at the table, you might want to consider eating meals in restaurants rather than at home. Eating meals in public can help keep down loud conversations and bad behavior. But you know your family better than anyone. If you think some members might be as badly behaved outside as they are in, you might want to reconsider, since that would only cause you more stress. If your visitors are there for a while, plan some activities for outside. Even socializing at a neighbor's house can diffuse family tension.
SIMPLY DOING LESS WILL AUTOMATICALLY EASE YOUR STRESS: Do less and enjoy more. Women, in particular, always want to create the perfect holiday. They want the perfect decorations, fabulous food, they want to be involved in community events, send cards, go to the parties. Especially in this economy, you can pare things down. You can still decorate, but don't go overboard. You don't have to go to every party. Prioritize, enjoy the season, enjoy the family, take time to appreciate what you have. Put things into perspective. Being overly negative and gloomy is as bad as wanting perfection. Find the middle ground.
THIS SOUNDS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE, BUT -- STICK TO YOUR ROUTINE: It's not completely do-able, of course, because, between work and preparing for the holidays, time is short. But don't give up the things that will keep you stress-free, such as working out, or taking a yoga or pilates class. Try not to skip your weekly basketball game. When you do these things, it will remind you that everything is manageable, and when you see that, it will immediately calm you down.