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5 Practical Tips To Deal With Holiday Stress: The RELAX Paradigm

Five Simple Reminders To Cope with Holiday Stress

The holidays are that time of the year when people feel even more stressed than they usually do.  Shopping, limited finances, gift demands, family interactions, loneliness and several other factors all go into making this time of year unique.  Add to this the actual physical demands that the holidays place on the heart (increased rate of heart attacks) and the stress of this time of year is clearly not something to take lightly.  So what are some of the things you should remember to help decrease your holiday stress?  The mnemonic RELAX describes an approach to dealing with holiday stress.

Remember what the holidays are truly about:  While people always bemoan rushing around, spending money and having to tolerate their families, but if we think more deeply about this, this is really not what the holidays are about at all.  The holidays are a time for authentic communities to come together and a time to remember values and the fact that you are not alone.

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Exercise:  Remember that mental stress can be relieved by physical exercise.  Often, we think of going to the gym as a drag, but this does not have to be your exercise to relieve stress.  Go for a brisk warm after you bundle up (as long as there is no ice out there!)  If not, get some simple gym equipment to work out with at home.  Once you increase that metabolism, you will be astounded with the stress relief results.  Also, to combat the higher rate of heart attacks over this period, this intervention can be really helpful and a good build up to New Year's resolutions.

Listen to music that you love.  If it is the holiday music that you love, go out and see what's out there as new takes on holiday music.  New jazz collections or contemporary interpretations may really make your day.  If you're tired of holiday music, make sure to take some time off and get that energizing music into your day.  People who are tired of holiday music can also listen to their own music on headphones in shopping malls. Although this requires more vigilance, this approach, at least intermittently, can really help a shopping day when you have one heard one too many "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire."

Ask for help.  If you're the appointed gift buyer but simply can't get all your chores done this year, ask for help.  You don't have to be ashamed to need help when you are doing a gazillion things at the same time.  You can have a family day setting the Christmas tree.  Or you can get help wrapping gifts as well.  If you don't have a budget for it, you may want to plan ahead for some help when your 20,000 visitors descend on your home for that holiday dinner.  Next year, you may want to put some money aside to get someone to help you with the preparations.  Help comes in all forms, and one of the most forgotten forms of help are the very religious traditions that the holidays are supposed to highlight.  As much as a spa day can help, so can a Church or Temple day, even if the last time you were spotted there, you were two sizes smaller.  For atheists, there is enough beauty in the temples of nature in winter to focus on when you don't have to deal with the morning traffic. Find your help in nature.  You will be surprised how rejuvenating this can be when you are intentional about giving yourself this time.

eXtricate yourself from unnecessary socializing.  While the holidays are about community, one-too-many holiday parties can be very tiring.  Decide ahead of time which parties you can afford to go to (mentally) and which you simply do not have the time for.  And remember, over-commitment is not a sign of love-it is simply a sign of your own guilt. 

These are five of the ways in which you can gear up for the holidays being just a little less stressful.  Taking the time to institute at least one of these tips may make just the difference that you need.

 

 

Srini Pillay, M.D., is the author of the book: Life Unlocked: 7 Revolutionary Lessons to Overcome Fear. He is also an Assistant Clinical Professor at Harvard Medical School.

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