While the holidays can be full of festive fun, it can also be a time of stress for many of us who feel pressure to make Christmas Day a success. Add to this too much food, too much alcohol, and too much time with family members, and December can lead to some feeling burnt out.
Here we round up some expert tips on how to reduce stress and maintain healthy habits throughout the festive season so you can enjoy your holidays to the fullest.
Thinking how you would like the holidays to be and what kinds of activities are best done in smaller or larger groups can help you plan a more stress-free Christmas says Baylor College of Medicine's Dr. Karen Lawson. If there are dynamics that have not worked well in the past then it is important to acknowledge this and avoid the topics and situations that will cause stress.
Also plan how you might be able to stick to your routine, try to prepare some nutritious meals, plan healthy snacks to avoid too much high fat, high sugar Christmas food, and pack your gym gear if traveling so you can do sport while away. John Osborne, M.D., Ph.D., a Dallas-area preventive cardiologist, also reminds people to take any medications that they might need, especially for heart conditions, as the holidays are the most dangerous time of the year for a cardiovascular attack.
"I can't tell you how often I get calls from patients who have traveled somewhere and forgot their medications. Some people figure they'll be fine to be off them for a week or so, but if you start missing medications, that can have a big impact on causing your blood pressure to be out of control."
Although time can be limited and there are many tasks that have to get done, remembering to practice self-care always is important.
Lawson says it is essential to not overeat or overdrink and to get a full night's sleep. Osborne agrees, saying "We tend to exercise less and eat more during the holidays. I admit to my patients that I don't love to exercise, but I really feel great having exercised," he adds. "Getting that motivation can be painful, but it's fantastic when you get to the other side."
Have realistic expectations
Try not to get caught up in what you see in magazines and on social media. Recognizing what your family is like, what your budget is and what timeframe you have to work within will help manage unrealistic expectations about how the holidays should be advises Lawson.
Take some space for yourself
The holiday season can be full of parties, get-togethers, and social obligations, with Lawson suggesting that if you need space, there is a way you can let friends and family know without hurting their feelings.
"It's important to acknowledge how you are feeling and to not feel like you are being forced to continue to be in a situation when you are not enjoying it," she said. "It is perfectly acceptable to say to the host that you need to leave for a little while, but that you'll be back for dinner. If you don't want to leave, you can ask if there is something you can help with so you'll be occupied."