Sad woman with gift boxes

The holiday season is supposed to be a joyous time. Advertisements abound with pictures of the “perfect” family surrounding a beautifully decorated dinner table or gathered around a Christmas tree. The message is that this time of year brings only joy and wellness to everyone. Of course, we all hope that’s true, but, truth be told, the holiday season can be filled with sadness, anxiousness, loneliness and stress.

Expecting the “perfect holiday” weighs us down. We don’t all get to be with friends and family during the holiday season. Changing routines can throw us off. Healthy eating habits might decline while spending increases – yikes!

Our unrealistic expectations for this holiday season are enough to make us want to crawl into a hole and hibernate until spring comes. But there is help.

Here are some tips that will protect you from getting turned upside down this holiday season:

Don’t try to make everything perfect. Maybe, as a child, the holiday season seemed perfect. Maybe it wasn’t and you are determined to make it so. Either way, worrying will stress you out, lowering your immune system. Shoot for the idea “less is more.” Simply enjoy what you have.

Stop trying to do it all. Delegate tasks! Downsize! Ask guests to bring specific dishes. The sister-in-law you don’t get along with? Ask her to bring her favorite dish. When cooking, set timers! If you must send holiday cards, send them only to people you’re in touch with. Post your family photo on Facebook for everyone.

Take time for yourself. Don’t be too busy to give yourself what you need. It’s not selfish to take time for you. Get a massage, take a bubble bath, get your workout in.

Say no to parties you’d rather not attend.

Let go of the catastrophic story in your head about what could happen at the gathering with your dysfunctional family that’s causing you more stress. Those thoughts trick your body into raising your stress hormone. Don’t do that to yourself!

If you’re experiencing loneliness, consider inviting a group of friends over. Maybe a PJ party with holiday movies and board games. Pick up the phone and call those you haven’t spoken to in a while. This will lift your spirit!

Make these your daily non-negotiables throughout the holiday season:

• Drink ½ your weight in ounces of H2O.

• Get 15 minutes of exercise every day. (Dancing in your kitchen counts!)

• Go outside for 10 minutes for some sunshine.

• Breathe! Take three to five minutes each day to just focus on your breath. If a thought pops into your head, discard it. Enjoy the stillness.

Remember: This is a time for family and friends. More people will remember how you made them feel rather than what food you prepared, the gift you gave them or your decorations. Be there emotionally for yourself and others this season.

I wish you a stressless holiday. 

Anna Marie Frank is a brain health and wellness expert, author, lecturer and human-potential coach. Her mission is to abolish mental health stigmas and help people upgrade their minds and bodies through lifestyle choices. You can find her @HappyWholeYou on social media. The views expressed are her own.

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