5 ways to feel more blessed, less stressed this holiday season

And we’re off! Thanksgiving has come and gone, marking the official start of the holiday season — a time of year that leaves us feeling both blessed and stressed. With Black Friday anxiety, socializing at company parties, and growing expectations of our children and family, stress levels can be high during this time of year.

Here are a few tips from Dr. Tina Mantanoña with the Northwestern Medicine Family Physicians in Grayslake to help prevent holiday blues and minimize stress during this hectic time.

Value the real thing

Buying the perfect gift, erecting the perfect tree, and throwing the perfect party — our expectations of the perfect holiday resemble a Norman Rockwell dream. Children leave home, families are complicated, and people’s tastes change. So should our traditions.

Let go of unrealistic vignettes of the perfect holiday. Let someone else host. Understand your children still love you even if the ham is store-bought. Be open to new traditions, and find new ways to celebrate as a real family.

Don’t overindulge

A smorgasbord and an open bar are not a dare. True pleasure is the art of knowing when to say when. Help yourself to the spiked eggnog but pull back before spoiling it for yourself.

Troubleshoot overdoing it at a holiday party by eating a healthy snack beforehand. When you get there, remember the holiday cookies and the cheese balls are not rolling away. Pace yourself!

Speaking of pacing, avoid the total abandonment of exercise and healthy habits. It is possible to enjoy tasty holiday treats while maintaining your exercise routine and sleep schedule, and keeping up healthy habits will make getting back to a healthier lifestyle that much easier.

Assuredly, this is a season for indulgence. Overindulgence, however, only adds to your stress and guilt.

Try 4­-7-­8 breathing

Oppressed by the unrelenting assault of “White Christmas” and the nth interpretation of “O Holy Night” on your ears? Aggravated by the pushy, maddening horde at department stores? Try this breathing technique:

• Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose for four counts.

• Hold your breath for seven counts.

• Exhale through your mouth, audibly, for eight counts.

• This is one cycle. Repeat this three times for a total of four restorative breaths.

Budget your money, budget your time

Decide how many holiday events you will attend, and hold yourself to it. Limiting excessive holiday events allows us more time to bond with our families.

Limit the number of shopping trips and save hours and days of shopping stress. Before stepping foot in the grocery or big box store, establish your budget for that trip, and stick to it. Use cash. Letting go of physical cash is much harder than swiping a credit card.

Starting a family gift exchange is an excellent way to stay under budget. You focus attention on a single, meaningful gesture rather than spreading your attention over many gifts for many different people.

Reach out

This time of year can seem lonely for some, even more so if you are dealing with a breakup or the death of someone close to you. Seek out community or social events to enlarge your social circle.

Volunteering is also a way to combat isolation while you help others. You are not alone.

Many of us are plagued with insomnia, the blues, and the inability to feel contentment. Though it may be difficult or embarrassing to ask for help, many people need treatment to get better. You may think you will power through it or get over it on your own.

If you are unable to get past it, talk with your doctor about counseling or ask about medical treatment that may help.

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