How to Handle Holiday Stress and Season’s Eating

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Are those jingling bells giving you a headache? You’re not alone. Too much holiday stress can take the fun out of the season. Many of us feel a lot of pressure this time of year with meals to cook, presents to wrap, company on the way, and a house to clean. So how can you cope?

holidaylights250“There are only so many hours in the day. If the house isn’t decorated or you need to skip a holiday event, its okay,” says Amber Hyde, MD, an independently practicing family medicine physician on the medical staff at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center. “Keep your focus on friends and family and having fun,” she says. “Use the holidays to reach out to old friends and make connections. The holiday season is a festive time, but it’s no fun if you wind up completely exhausted.”

You can also help to minimize stress by controlling spending. “Buying gifts you can’t afford will stress you out long after the holidays are over,” Dr. Hyde cautions. “Plan a budget before going shopping, or consider making gifts at home.”

Above all, Dr. Hyde reminds us to take care of ourselves physically with sufficient rest, healthy eating, and exercise.

“If you’re feeling too stressed, take a break,” she says. “Napping or walking around the block can help you feel better.”

Avoid overindulging in food and alcohol, but let yourself enjoy some of your favorite treats of the season in moderation. “Trying to diet during the holidays can make you feel deprived and may cause you to overeat,” she explains.

“When faced with an array of foods, choose wisely. Decide which foods you really want to eat and which ones you can do without. Cakes, pies, and all the other goodies can be part of a healthful eating plan as long as you practice portion control,” Dr. Hyde says.

“When eating, it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are full, so eat slowly and wait awhile before going back for seconds,” she recommends.

When stress feels overwhelming, it can help to try turning your focus outward. “Doing something nice for someone else, getting out and walking with a friend, taking your family ice skating, volunteering at a church, sharing a meal or baked treats, or contacting someone who is lonely or with whom you have lost touch can help you feel better,” Dr. Hyde suggests.

This holiday season, think positively, exercise patience, and commit to staying within the realistic goals you’ve set. The peace of mind you get will go a long way toward keeping joy, laughter, and cheer in the holidays.