Amy Tenderich was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in May of 2003. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Diabetes Mine and co-authored the book Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes. You will frequently find her speaking at diabetes, health, and social media events across the country.
Stress and depression are extremely common during the holiday season, and no wonder. In our efforts to pull off a “perfect holiday,” we’re often faced with a bewildering array of demands—parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, packing for travel, and/or hosting house guests, and so on.
According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s important that you “learn to recognize common holiday triggers, so you can disarm them before they lead to a meltdown.” These include:
Relationships. Oftentimes during the holidays, family misunderstandings and conflicts can intensify. On the other hand, people who are without loved ones at this time of year often experience intense loneliness and sadness.
Finances. Added expenses for gifts, travel, food and entertainment can put a strain on your budget—and your peace of mind. Overspending now can also mean financial worries for months to come.
Physical demands. Exercise and sleep—the best antidotes for stress and fatigue—may take a back seat to chores and errands. Being exhausted increases your stress, creating a vicious cycle. And what’s worse, being wiped out makes you more susceptible to colds and viruses.
Fortunately, according to both the Mayo Clinic and my readers who’ve shared their coping strategies, there are quite a few things you can do proactively to avoid holiday stress.
Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends, and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. This will help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to recruit people to help with party prep and cleanup.
- Keep a calendar—write it all down
Stick to a budget—decide ahead of time how much money you’ll put towards gifts, decorative items, party food, etc.
Learn to say no
Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity. If it's not possible to say no (for example to extra hours at work), then try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
- Acknowledge your feelings—be honest rather trying to please everyone
- Be realistic—you may want to “do it all,” but it’s better to be pragmatic ahead of time than to “crash and burn” later
Don't abandon healthy habits
Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all*. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese, or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.
- Schedule some time in for things you enjoy, like reading
- Try acupuncture, yoga, or some other activity specifically aimed at relaxation
(*See tips one and three in this section for more on managing food and exercise over the holidays.)