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This is another post in our series of Fitness Saturday exercises, workouts, and expert tips appropriate to women in the second half of life. Jonathan Urla, a certified advanced health and fitness specialist, shares helpful ways to keep the stress levels down during the holiday season.

 

For many of us, the holiday season is synonymous with heightened stress and anxiety. Women, in particular, often take on multiple roles during this time such as planner, shopper, organizer, chef, decorator, etc. On top of all that, add on family issues, friend conflicts, travel concerns. . . and it can become overwhelming. Nevertheless, the holidays are a time of joy, celebration and warmth. The trick is to learn how to handle the logistics and cope with the drama so you can enjoy the season with the least amount of hair pulling. Below are ten ways that will help you mind the stress and assure some fun in the process.

6425796905_fd044f4126_zPhoto by Selena N.B.H. via Flickr

 
1.     Make plans that are flexible. Planning ahead is very important for a good holiday experience, but you should also stay flexible. Make a checklist of all the things that need to be done and note the ones that can get done sooner. Many things like invites, travel plans, calls, special menu items, guest accommodations, are examples of things that can and should be taken care of sooner rather than later. That being said, people aren’t statues; they change constantly. Someone who was an omnivore last year may be a vegetarian this year. Be open to the changing needs of your relatives and friends and try to enjoy the chance to see where in their lives they are now.

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2.     Delegate to the team, don’t take on others’ roles or responsibilities. Being a wise head of household means knowing how to delegate. Maybe you ordered the turkey, but someone else can pick it up. Let your husband and/or relatives make their contributions as well, and this can go for psychological/social efforts, not just physical ones. Once they know what’s expected of them, don’t worry or advise or take over. If you ask if they want help, guess what, they will probably accept because that way they can get out of it. Let them know how everyone is relying on them, not just you, and they will get the credit. This builds a team spirit and spreads the joy of success around. Be sure to thank everyone at the end.

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3.     Give yourself a positive mantra to repeat throughout the day. A mantra is a word or phrase you use as an object of concentration and that can embody some aspect of spiritual power. It can be anything like a personal acceptance mantra, such as “Let (your name) be (your name)”, or a simple word like “Easy” or “Enough”, which can apply to getting a task done or to remind yourself to take it easy. Repeat your mantra to yourself with an inner smile, like a hidden secret that powers your soul. Need some mantra examples? This site is one of my favorites.

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4.     Learn from the past, don’t repeat mistakes. Most of us can remember at least one holiday disaster that could have been avoided. Like the time when someone had the idea to try cooking the turkey upside down, or switched something else around and well, it didn’t turn out so great. Yes, you can make the best of it, but the right thing would have been not to try something completely new for a big holiday. Stick with what’s worked in the past, especially with the big things. If someone is dying to try something creative, let it be with the alternative dessert. If it works, great. If not, well you were really full already.

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5.     Keep the conversation light. There’s something about family get-togethers that will often spark intense conversations about very touchy (loud) topics. Sometimes, it’s just one person who needs to let off some steam and everyone just nods or shakes their heads appropriately. Hopefully, this passes without incident. But then, there is the topic (personal or political) that you know will set off fireworks from Mr./Ms. angry. You (or maybe you delegated someone else for this) will need to be aware and quickly turn the conversation in another direction. Making a general joke about a side topic is a great distraction, and then re-directing via a question for information about something entirely different is a good way to circumvent these situations and keep things light and chill.

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6.     Have a sanctuary of silence. As early as you can, scope out your house or wherever you will be for the holiday, for a place that is away from all the noise where you can go and be alone. It may be in a small room upstairs or in the back, maybe its outside on the porch, or in your car. Wherever it is, find a lovely object to look at and bring it there with you. Right before the festivities begin, make a quick trip there and stand in stillness and breathe slow, deep breaths. Take one minute or more to feel calm, confident, safe, and relaxed. Tell yourself you can come back to this place any time you want to throughout the day/night whenever you need a little peace.

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7.     Get in some exercise. I know it may sound counter-intuitive to put one more thing on your plate, but studies show that doing a little exercise in the morning will help reduce cortisol in the body and reduce the effect of stress for the rest of the day. Try doing a brisk 15-20 minute walk or jog, followed by some floor stretches and abdominal exercises. Taking care of yourself first is a great way to boost you both mentally and physically, and give you more energy to focus on others later.

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8.     Give yourself a hand massage. This really does help. Sure you’d like a full massage, but that isn’t very practical on a holiday. Your hands carry a lot of stress from the whole body, just like your feet. One at a time, try stretching each of your fingers back for 5-8 seconds. Massage the muscles below each of your thumbs for 20 seconds. Squeeze the base of your wrist and bend your wrist forward and back. For a more complete hand massage, see this YouTube video.

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9.     Drink in moderation. This should go without saying, and it should apply to your family and guests as well. Drinking too much before the meal is a sure-fire way to feel sick and pretty much done way before festivities are actually to begin. Stick with water, or maybe some Pellegrino over ice with a twist of lime if you like it fancy!

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10. Master the art of non-attachment. From Buddhist philosophy, this principle will help you to step back, be present, and not get too caught up in the holiday hype. Remember that holidays are about celebrating, sharing, caring, and making your own traditions. Whatever happens, no one day is more important than the next in terms of who you are and what your life is. Don’t invest too much of yourself in trying to make a holiday perfect. In fact, according to my event-planner friend, less than perfect is perfect!!
 
Hope you have a fun one, and please share your comments or stories about your holiday experience. Take care.

 

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  • Lori November 23, 2015 at 10:04 am

    Excellent article. The advice will be helpful

    Reply
  • douglas mcintyre November 21, 2015 at 7:49 am

    Brilliant suggestions for people who get overcome by the holidays

    Reply