Don't Let the Little Things Ruin Your Season

Mandy Mirzaie, RDN

The smell of pumpkin spice, the cooler days and nights - all are signs of the upcoming holiday season. Unfortunately, the months ahead are for many, filled with stress, anxiety and not as much joy and thanksgiving as one would hope. Here are a few ideas that may help with increasing the joy, decreasing the stress, and getting through the holidays with a smile on your face.

Acknowledge and Write Down Your Sources of Stress

Sources of stress come from all walks of life - toxic family or friends, unhappy memories, overloaded schedule and obligations, reflecting on missed opportunities over the past year, and overextending financially. One can only participate in so many Secret Santa projects before the sleigh is overwhelmed.

Ask yourself, do I really need to have a certain interaction or commit to a long list of obligations?  What will happen if you don’t? Will someone’s heart break if you don’t bring the cheese ball this year? Will anyone really be upset for more than a few moments if you miss their party?

Avoid Over-Committing Yourself

Saying "no" to things can be very freeing. You don't have to attend every party, bring food to every potluck, or volunteer for every cause you deem worthwhile. Commit to a few things that make you happy, and don't burden yourself with those that don't contain joy for you.

Take Time for Yourself

Schedule some overdue "me" time! Make an appointment for yourself - and keep it! No one needs to know that your important meeting is for a back massage or to sit in the very back of a coffee shop hiding behind a great book.

Don't Abandon Healthy Habits

Avoid over-indulgence and continue making exercise and activity a priority. Don't starve yourself with the expectation of going crazy for a single meal - in fact - snack sensibly beforehand to reduce hunger at events filled with hidden calories and post-indulgence guilt. Avoid the holiday sale treat aisles in the store. The Hershey Kisses wrapped in fall colors or jingling merrily on TV taste exactly the same as the ones in silver foil. Don't overeat at the holidays figuring you'll course correct in January - those extra pounds will lead to stress levels that weren't worth the cost.

Plan Ahead

Set aside days and times for shopping, baking, and visiting friends. It's the season for reconnecting - and it's ok to make that a priority.

Stick to Your Budget

Talk to family and coworkers about limiting gift giving or set limits on amount spent. Ask people what they want instead of spending hours finding the perfect pair of socks. Start a family gift exchange and draw names with a set spending limit attached.

Be Realistic

Don’t expect a miracle to happen just because it is the holidays. Know that almost everyone else is stressed too. We often envision others as having perfect meals, perfect families, and perfect lives. In reality the other person is overcooking their turkey too, yelling at their spouse and kids too, and wanting to just say ‘STOP THE MADNESS’ as much as you. Allow yourself to be human! Remember - Facebook and Instagram are the highlight reel, not the trenches.

Reach Out

Do not try to juggle all the holiday balls on your own. Ask for help with tasks. If you are feeling overwhelmed, call a close friend or counselor to help.  Also, if you are feeling lonely, reach out. Talk to a trusted advisor. Find ways to help others, such as volunteering to lift your spirits and make connections.