Simple Ways to Stop Seasonal Stress

In an effort to pull off the perfect Hallmark holiday we often find ourselves facing  enormous pressures - work, parties, out of town guests, shopping, baking, kids on a school break, cleaning and the list goes on. So much for peace and joy, right? With some simple tips you can minimize stress and even enjoy the holidays.
Be realistic. Traditions and rituals often change as families change and grow. Hold on to those traditions that you can, but realize that you may have to let go of others.

Stick to a budget. Remember that the holidays are not about who got the biggest gift. Set a reasonable budget and stick to it! If you don’t you could feel anxious and tense for months as you try to pay the bills. Give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.

Set priorities. Learn to say no to social engagements that you just don’t have time for. Believe it or not, people will understand if you can’t make it. If you say yes, only to what you want to do, you will feel less overwhelmed and bitter.

Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holiday’s become a dietary free-for-all. Excessive eating will only show up on your waistline later, which can cause anxiety. Eat a healthy snack before a holiday party.

Stick to your exercise routine. If you have an exercise routine, then do your best to stick with it. It may mean cutting down on a few holiday related activities, but it is well worth it in benefits which are both physical and psychological. Be creative and involve your family members so you spend time with them and get your exercise. Invite them to go a walk or a bike ride.

Look for simple ways to increase physical activity. Chances are there will be days when you just won’t have time to do your regular exercise. On these days look for opportunities to “build” physical activity into your day, like parking farther out, taking the stairs or doing a short walk to look at Christmas lights.

Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting neighbors and friends, etc. Plan your menus and make what you can ahead of time. This will help prevent the last minute scramble to pick up items you may have forgotten.

Forget about perfection. Holiday TV specials are often full of happy families with no problems, and if they do have problems they are resolved within 1-2 hours. In real life, it does not usually work out that way. Your husband will burn the cookies, your mother-in-law will criticize something, and your brother will start up an old argument, all in the matter of an hour. Accept imperfections in yourself and others, and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Seek professional help if you need it. The holidays are often a hard time for many people. Despite your best efforts, if you still find yourself feeling persistently anxious, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless and unable to face routine chores for several weeks, seek professional help. Speak with your doctor or a mental health professional.

Healthy Holiday Gifts

Thinking of giving cookies, fudge or a box of chocolates as a holiday gift? That’s so 2005! This year, think about giving something healthy to your loved ones, co-workers, neighbors and friends. Here are some gift ideas for the health-conscious on your list.

Stocking Stuffers
• Pedometer. Know someone who is trying to start a simple exercise program? A pedometer, which counts each step a person takes and the distance they’ve walked, makes a perfect present for someone who’s trying to be more active.

• iPod or iTunes gift card. Combining entertainment and exercise often motivates people to jump on the treadmill who would otherwise be bored by going for a run or walk. You don’t just have to download music either; you can download books or movies to watch or listen to while exercising.

Gifts
• Active video games for kids and adults. Your children want to play video games. You want them to go outside and get some exercise. Now there’s a solution you both can love and enjoy. Active video games, such as Dance Dance Revolution and the Nintendo Wii force players to get off the couch and burn calories.

• A massage gift certificate. Purchase a relaxing massage at a spa. Or create a home spa basket with essential oils, bath salts, massage oil, body lotions and a pumice stone. Relaxation and stress relief are important for overall good health.

• A bicycle. Bikes are a great way for kids and adults to get exercise. You don’t have to spend a lot of money either, check out Goodwill stores or second hand shops. They often have good bikes that might need just a little work. Don’t forget to get a helmet to wear when riding as well!

• Healthy cookbooks. How about a new cookbook that includes healthy recipes — maybe one with healthy soups, salads, vegetable sides dishes, whole grains or whole grain breads.

• Subscription to a magazine. Consider giving a year subscription to a magazine. There are several magazines that offer healthy recipes and tips, as well as magazines that focus on physical activity (biking, hiking, running, etc.) and relaxation.

• Workout gear. Come January we all like to start the new year off right by being healthy so why not look good at the same time. Giftcards for workout clothes or shoes are a great way to support healthy hav

Hostess Gifts
• Oil and vinegar. Why not give high-quality balsamic vinegar and olive oil as a gift? If someone is trying to lose weight by eating a lot of salads, some aged balsamic vinegar and a dash or two of good olive oil can make the difference between a boring salad and a nice treat.

• A healthy goody basket. A fruit basket of exotic or specialty fruits or other gift basket of healthy specialty foods is always welcome. Try putting together your own basket. You could include some of your favorite healthy recipes and some homemade healthy treats.