Try these helpful tips to limit holiday stress

Published 6:32 am Friday, December 14, 2012

We all know that the holidays can be a stressful time. It can also be a wonderful, meaningful time with family and friends reflecting on what is important. It is so easy to let other things get in the way and distract us from what is important. Here are a few tips that may help make the holidays more fulfilling:

• Take care of yourself: make sure you are getting enough sleep. We all have a lot to do, but it really does pay off to get your usual number of hours of sleep. It will drain you physically and emotionally to cheat yourself in this area.

• Control your eating. The holidays always means more great food and more opportunities to overindulge. Enjoy the food, but also pace yourself. Overeating can produce guilt, shame, dissatisfaction, and sugar rushes. Don’t go to the other extreme of denying yourself all of the tasty treats that add to the holiday season — this may create more feelings resentment and discouragement. Find a healthy balance. Enjoy the tastes and smells of the season, but not too much.

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• Keep your regular exercise routine. This is a busier season, but the consistency will also help you feel stable, and physical exercise is a natural way to boost or maintain healthy moods. Being active in fresh air and warm sunshine is a great way to defend against some of those gray feelings brought on by colder winter weather.

• Plan things out. It’s OK to plan out your schedule, how you’re spending your money, and specifically making time to have fun. Rather than feeling rushed, unprepared, or overwhelmed, set boundaries on what you can and cannot do. Not preparing for the holidays adds even more stress when you always feel like you’re a day behind and playing catch-up.

Plan out your spending — you don’t have to wind up with feelings of guilt or regret. Figure out what is reasonable and affordable and stay within your limits. Be aware of why you are giving — don’t do it to impress or win favor. Planning out what you can spend and what to buy before you hit the stores may also help the checkbook and your emotional bottom-line.

Plan your schedule to include times to just relax with friends, do activities that you enjoy, and remember to have fun. Also keep in mind that even with planning, the unexpected will happen.

• Remember what is important. What’s important about the Christmas season? It’s not the gifts, or the money, or the lights, or all the parties … it’s the people. Spend time with loved ones in meaningful ways.

Christmas is a time for giving — not just so that we can get things, too — but to truly give of ourselves to others. We celebrate the birth of Christ — God giving of Himself for us. It may be the time to work through difficult feelings, to forgive and reconcile, or to just love others.

It’s a time to remember that an incredible God interrupted our world to have a relationship with each one of us. Take the time to invest in the lives of those around you in a meaningful way. Make the time to celebrate and worship. Have a wonderful and blessed holiday.

If you or someone you know is struggling, take the time to talk to a pastor or a trained professional.

Chris Beam is the director of The Samaritan Counseling Center, located at 410 West St. in Bainbridge. The telephone number is (229) 243-1633.