Tips for managing holiday stress

As the song says - it's the most wonderful time of the year, but sometimes the period between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve can cause a lot of stress. 

The goal is to make sure stress doesn't take over and ruin the season.  Too many demands on your time, money, and emotions can lead to trouble. So how do we manage it all?

Lifestyle medicine expert at Henry Ford Health System, Dr. Christina Lucas has a few ideas.

Step one -  be mindful. Mindfulness is when you are fully aware and present - which can help direct your energy in a positive way.  

"Mindfulness is key with everything. It’s key with your sleep, it’s key with your interpersonal relationships," Dr. Lucas said. "It’s key with your stress because your cortisol, that’s our alarm clock hormone. That’s what wakes us up at 5 o'clock in the morning and gets you up, and if you’re not sleeping well that cortisol is always spiking."

Be mindful about getting enough sleep, fueling your body with healthy foods, and motion.

That's step two - get moving to manage your stress.

"Exercise - make sure that you say, ‘OK, this is going to be a stressful day, I need to lower my cortisol.' Do about 10-15 minutes when you can," Lucas said. "It doesn’t be first thing in the morning, but the sooner the better to get it off the list. Anticipate the stress. Say, ‘This is going be a crazy time once Thanksgiving until the end of the year, it’s going to be run, run, run.’"

Don't overbook yourself, and Lucas says don't be afraid to use a powerful word: No.

"Give yourself permission to say no," she said. "Give yourself permission so you know, 'I’m at peace about that, right now I can’t be everywhere at all places' and forgive the fact that (you) might not be able to be at all six Christmas parties. 'I’m gonna try to make the ones that I can' and give yourself that freedom and permission to say, 'I can do this much."

And finally, we can all learn a lesson from Charlie Brown. Remember how he thought Christmas had become too commercialized and he thought we needed to understand the true deeper meaning of the season? It's not about fancy gifts. 

"Focus on family, focus on yourself, focus on taking care of yourself, and of the mindfulness and being present to what’s going on is important during the holidays," Lucas said.

And if you find yourself getting stressed, lower your stress, by using your breath. Take deep slow breaths in through your nose, filling your abdomen and out through your nose.