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How to Reduce Holiday Stress

January 3, 2023

We all know how stressful the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be. Every year, the days seem to tick by a little faster, and it is seemingly harder and harder to keep pace. Between cleaning the house to host the family, cooking for the company potluck, and running through all the stores gathering gifts for the kids, it’s a wonder we make it through! Our bodies cope with stress in many different ways, most of which are not healthy for us! We may have a sudden onset of migraines or muscle soreness. Our backs may tighten up and make it hard to stand in the kitchen for longer hours. We may even experience increased heart rates and blood pressure levels. If we don’t get a handle on these symptoms, it is likely we will struggle finding some peace and joy these coming holidays.

                Here are some tips to managing your stress so you can relax and enjoy your Christmas and New Years with your family and friends.

  1. Make lists: Writing out all the errands, gifts, and groceries you need will help you manage your free time. The lists will keep you feeling organized and help you track your path from store to store. There is nothing more stressful than walking up and down every grocery aisle trying to piece together the needed ingredients in your head. With them on paper in front of you, you can easily snatch up the necessary items and quickly leave the rest behind. Listing the stores you need in order from furthest away to nearest, or first open to last, will help prevent unnecessary driving around the city. And we all know how stressful driving around the holidays can be! As far as gifts, it is common to sometimes forget all we’ve ordered or purchased! Write them down as you bring them home. Make note of what you have and still need. Seeing this on paper will help you remember what you’re looking for when you are out and about.
  2. Don’t cram: Cramming can be detrimental to our sanity! Begin planning a month or two ahead of time. This helps prevent the anxiety that might come with last minute shopping or baking. Many treats or meals can be pre-made and frozen until the night before or day of a gathering. This could save you time and back-aches from a full, non-stop day of baking in the kitchen. Many stores have started their holiday sales as early as October. This is great news for those of us that know what we want to purchase for our loved ones! By beginning the shopping a couple months ahead of time, you will be able to avoid the stress-filled parking lots and checkout lines and still feel confident you’ve found good deals.
  3. Take time for you: Don’t let the craziness of a holiday to-do list get in the way of your regular routine. If you are a daily gym-goer, continue that routine. If you take an hour each night to do a little reading to unwind, keep it up! Maybe you drink a tea and do a little yoga or meditation in the mornings. Don’t stop! This will keep your body and mind in sync and your anxiety levels low, allowing you to better manage your schedule and lists.
  4. Stretch: This may seem a bit silly, but by taking a few minutes to stretch each day, your muscles will feel alive and well and, in turn, you will be more apt to move and complete your errands. Many of us tend to carry stress and anxiety within our muscles. The upper trap is one of the main muscles that gets abused when we hold stress inside us. Tightening of the upper trap can lead to pain within the neck, upper back, and shoulders. Stretching each muscle group 2 to 3 times for 30 to 45 second holds will help prevent trigger points from forming and relieve any built-up tension.

By keeping these simple points in mind, you will feel relaxed and accomplished rather than stressed and anxious going into the holiday season. That never-ending to-do list will suddenly feel less of a burden and become much more manageable for you. Your body and mind will thank you for taking the appropriate actions to bring calm and joy into your holidays! If you have been struggling with stress or anxiety and feel it is beginning to affect your muscles and joints, ask for a physical therapy script from your primary care doctor. A physical therapist will be able to help you manage your symptoms and get you back on track!