Experts tell us how not to explode from stress this holiday season

Ah, the holidays. For most people, including yours truly, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. I mean, there’s literally a song called “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” because apparently Christmas carols like to cut right to the chase. Which I’m totally OK with.

But alongside that jolly feel and crispness in the air, it’s not new information that the holidays can bring on a lot of extra stress, too. Between holiday parties, gift buying, cooking/baking, decorating, and everything else, it’s no wonder people are known to stress out during the season when deep down they probably just want to kick back with a glass of spiked eggnog and watch some Clark Griswold.

“The average American spends about 42 hours for holiday issues during the season,” Dr. Lisa Daniel told Louisville, Ky. news station WLKY. “People tend to stop taking care of themselves,”

Wow. Forty-two hours is a lot of baking and mall-crowd weaving (or Amazon browsing for some of us), on top of our already-packed schedules. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m a stress eater, so my usual holiday weight gain is making a LOT of sense as I consider this plus Target’s holiday-candy section.

But fear not! According to Daniel and Dr. Erin Frazier, who both spoke with WLKY, there are actually some pretty simple ways to make sure we keep our stress levels under control during this busy time of year. For example – and we know you’ve heard this one before – exercise. Even if it’s just for 20 minutes right before you get started for the day, exercise can make such a huge difference in your morale, and not cause you have to worry about how to fit it in later in the day when unexpected issues come up.

“Exercise tends to decrease those stress hormones and actually increase endorphins, which are your feel-good hormones,” Daniel said. Good enough reason for us!

Another biggie that can sometimes be hard for us who not only like to make sure we do ALL THE THINGS but also thrive on control (ahem)? Say no to some events – and ask for help! The holidays are full of tasks that are often too much for one or sometimes even two people to take on.

“Let people help instead of doing everything for your family,” Daniel advised. “Let your family bring some dishes to the holiday.” And hey, even let the kids pitch in! They can hang the candy canes on the tree, and stick the bows on the gifts. There are so many kid-friendly tasks to hand them.

It’s also a great idea to keep on a steady routine, as tough as that may be at first. Have dinner at the same time, go to bed at the same time, etc. Along with your comfort of knowing what’s coming next, it gives kids (if you have them) more peace of mind and makes the holidays enjoyable for them.

“If parents are stressed the whole time, children are really going to feed off of that stress,” Frazier said.

It’s imperative to keep these tips in mind not only for your mental comfort, but also your physical health. As Daniel and Frazier note to WLKY, stress can weaken our immune systems – which can get us really sick to the point where we can’t do anything for the holiday. Eek!

“Try to just sit back, relax. Enjoy the holiday and don’t take it upon yourself to be perfect,” said Daniel. “It is time to have fun and if your house isn’t clean, if kids aren’t perfect (it’s) not that big of a deal – just roll with it.”

It’s true: None of our best Christmas memories have much to do with our parents having a perfectly clean house. So let’s all step back, take a breath, go for a quick walk or run, and ask our loved ones for help. No one likes waking up with the flu on Christmas morning, guys.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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