The holidays are a joy-filled time of year for most, but the additional activities and responsibilities can add to our normal stress. Holiday stress in particular affects women, who often take on the burden of planning holiday celebrations, decorating the home, purchasing the gifts and doing most of the preparations for the season.
Research shows that women suffer more from stress during the holidays than men.
Learn more: A 5-minute recipe for stress relief
What causes stress?
Stress can be caused by:
- Personal expectations of yourself when it comes to preparing, extra social events, entertaining.
- Family expectations, including children and aging parents who need assistance.
- Emotional burden around the holidays.
- Financial obligations.
With the added stress and limited time to get everything done, it can be a very difficult time of year to relax leading to unhealthy behaviors such as overeating, poor food choices, impacted sleep schedule, feelings of anxiety or depression, among other issues.
Ways to reduce tension
How can women ease the stress of the season and make the holidays healthy and happy? Sanford Health specialists offer advice to make the most of the season without the added stress:
- Focus on the purpose of the season. If we strive for perfection, we will miss it all.
- Get organized. Make lists and delegate. You don’t have to do it all alone.
- Prioritize. How much of your list can you realistically accomplish?
- Ask for help. Decorate the tree with the family, or bake cookies with children and grandparents. This makes wonderful memories that will last a lifetime, and it won’t feel like a chore.
- Allow yourself to say “no.” Make healthy choices for you and your family.
- Exercise. Physical exercise releases endorphins, which are our happy hormones. These help reduce cortisol, which is a stress hormone, and exercise can help improve sleep. Physical exercise relieves mental stress.
- Drink your water. You should take in one half to a full ounce of water for every pound of body weight.
- Reduce your caffeine intake. Limit to one to two services a day, and avoid caffeine within eight hours of going to sleep.
- Maintain good sleep habits. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Honor the hour before bed, and develop a nightly routine. Read, turn off all screens, soak in a warm bathtub to relax, enjoy soft music.
- Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, use of relaxation music, yoga, meditation or aromatherapy.
- Set realistic expectations of yourself. Find a balance between work, home and the additional activities you need to do and want to do.
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