Have a holly jolly Christmas, it's the best time of the year... or is it?

December 2, 2015, 2:36pm

By Deidre Kwenani, Ndapunikwa Investments. Photo: www.crossmap.com

Many people would say this time of year is one of their favourites. It’s filled with family and friends, traveling, good food, possibly gift-giving and receiving, festive parties and time off from work. We look forward to these things all year round, and although they can be wonderful, they can also cause a bit of stress.

Extra time with family and friends can lead to some mild (or not-so-mild) disagreements, hitting the open road means an increased risk of injury due to traffic accidents; excess deliciousness on your plates can lead to extra kg’s on the scale; gift-giving can result in financial strain; more partying can mean a bigger hang-over, less money in the bank, and an increase in violence, drunken driving, or disputes; and taking time away from work might mean you have a pile of things to do when you return.

The aforementioned represent some of the major stressors related to the festive season. Increased stress doesn’t mean we have to reconsider the whole notion of having an enjoyable holiday, it just means we need to practice a bit more “self-care”.

Let’s look at the facts:

As it turns out, women might have extra stress during the festive season just because they are who they are. What I mean by this is that women tend to take on the role of festive food preparer, holiday party planner, gift purchaser, holiday home decorator, and out-of-town trip organizer, in addition to their routine responsibilities which could include the following: caregiver, taxi-driver, house keeper, gardener, dog-walker, trash taker-outer, dish and clothes washer, etc. Adding the extra responsibilities and having the pressure of making the gathering and gifts ‘perfect’ might just be the tipping point!

Lower income folks who may struggle during ordinary times to buy necessities also usually have a more stressful time during the festive season. There is added pressure to be able to deliver something extraordinary to their families. They might feel a heavy burden to give gifts; contribute food or beverages to gatherings; purchase a holiday vehicle; or fund an out-of-town excursion- none of which fit into a financial budget.

This is one reason why it’s so important for those who are more privileged to donate and give to the less fortunate. You could make a significant difference in someone’s festive season by providing a meal, some random wrapped gifts, or holiday decorations, to a needy family.

Now that we know who is more at-risk of the dreaded stress-bug, here are some tips on how to make it safely and happily through the holidays:

About.com has a few suggestions for all of us to get through the holidays while maintaining a smile on our faces, the warm feelings within, and all of our hair intact!

1. Determining your priorities: Don’t overcommit yourself. Establish activities for you and your family that you think will also be fun for you. Make time for rest and give yourself a 5-10 minute break- this should be one of your daily priorities.

2. Taking shortcuts… its ok sometimes! Simplify your “normal” holiday activities- you don’t have to make the decorations, the food, or the gatherings perfect! Give yourself permission not to make that dessert that takes 5 hours to prepare. Make something equally delicious that takes 1/5 the amount of time.

3. Set a schedule: Take a few minutes each morning to write out the things you want to accomplish for the day. Cross them off as you complete them, so you can see your progress.

4. Breathe: Deep, slow, intentional breathing can help us to go from a state of high stress down to a manageable level within seconds.

5. Stick to a healthy diet and try not to overeat: Your body becomes physically stressed if it has to process too much sugar, if it’s not getting the nutrients it needs, and if it has to digest too much food caused by overeating. Be nice to your body and it will be nice to you!

It’s important to note that the majority of people feel increased stress over the holidays, so you are not alone. If you feel as though your stress is above and beyond what you can manage yourself, or if you feel lonely or depressed, there are professionals (like psychologists and social workers) who are available to assist with stress reduction.

Wishing everyone has a blessed, happy, and healthy holiday, and that your preparations be smooth and stress-free!