A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Relieve holiday stress with healthy traditions

December has its share of extra holiday stress. Healthy eating habits are out the window. There’s depression, financial concerns and general bah-humbug-ness.

“The holidays can be a joyous but busy time of year with numerous parties, expectations, gifts, and pressures,” said Kaitlyn Rychlowski, behavioral health nurse practitioner with Marshfield Clinic Health System. “This can lead to an increase in anxiety and depression. Create a list of your priorities this holiday season – what memories do you want to make? What are the must do activities? It is okay to prioritize time for rest and relaxation for yourself and family to support your mental health.”

To prevent negative outcomes, start new traditions that could help relieve holiday stress and make the season healthy, happy and worth remembering.

Woman reading and drinking coffee trying to reduce holiday stressPhysical health

When holidays become too much, your physical health is affected if you may put aside healthy habits. Stress can put more demands on an already-stressed body.

Tips on staying physically healthy:

  • Don’t do too much. Give yourself time to relax and enjoy.
  • Share the workload. Let everyone play an active role, including your guests. Make holidays a family affair, so you’re not burdened with all the work.
  • Establish priorities. Hard to believe: you can’t do everything. Hard to do: say “no” to some demands on your time.
  • Simplify life. Be less elaborate. Relax your housekeeping and holiday preparations.
  • Exercise. Don’t let your regular regimen lapse.
  • Eat healthy foods. Limit high-fat holiday treats. Serve healthy food with a flare at your family’s holiday party or work gathering.

RELATED ARTICLE: Holiday recipe: Take a healthful approach

Emotional health

If you believe something is lacking in your holidays it’s easy to become overwrought.

To create traditions that help level your emotions consider:

  • Asking yourself if you really enjoy all the rituals. Perhaps they’re habits, so adopt less elaborate traditions of holidays past.
  • Scaling down on gift giving. You may be surprised that others agree.
  • Postponing that annual party until after the holidays. This gives you time to prepare and helps with post-holiday letdown by giving you something to look forward to afterwards.
  • Getting out around people if you can’t be with family. Plan to be with friends. Volunteer to help others.

Oh, what about the kids?

Children are vulnerable to all the commercials and advertising flying at them from all angles. Help them have realistic expectations about gifts, an even-paced holiday season and loving family traditions.

A few suggestions:

  • Spend more time with your kids. Entertain less. Attend fewer parties that exclude children.
  • As much as we enjoy holiday movies and screen time, try new holiday experiences as a family, such as building snowmen, trying new hot cocoa creations, playing holiday bingo or making ornaments together.
  • Include the kids in all preparations. Let them help you decorate and bake, even if it means your creations aren’t perfect.
  • Teach them how to give. Adopt a needy family and have your kids help prepare a meal for them. Suggest they buy a gift for an underprivileged child with their own money. Ask them to donate one of their gifts to a less fortunate child.
  • Teach them that gifts don’t have to be tangible. Trade intangible gifts with each other, like helping with homework, washing dishes or walking the dog. Let them come up with their own ideas about what they can offer.

For questions about holiday stress, talk to a Marshfield Clinic Health System provider.

Schedule appointment Learn more about behavioral health

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