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Don't stress yourself out this year
Health advice
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Usually the only stress I encounter during the holiday season is when it comes to buying presents for two family members.
The first person always makes me feel that I choose the wrong thing — even going so far as to give back one gift two years later. It doesn’t seem to matter that this person doesn’t always give me a gift or that I put a lot of thought into the nice items I choose.
On the other hand, I feel like the second person is always comparing their gift with what I gave everyone else. Now, why do I let this situation bother me so much?
The American Psychological Association created a survey a couple of years ago that concluded that money was the top cause of holiday stress. This was followed by the pressures of gift-giving, lack of time and credit card debt. In the survey, one in five Americans reported that they worry that holiday stress will affect their physical health and 36 percent reported that they usually eat too much or drink alcohol to cope with stress during this time.
While I don’t feel that level of stress, I do let some behaviors affect my mood and personal feelings when shopping for those two people. Sometimes I feel like it would be better if I expressed my feelings to them. My husband probably thinks I’ve shared my thoughts on the subject far too many times over the years and I should get over it.
In the survey, participants reported using positive stress-management techniques (exercise, religious and spiritual activities, massage and yoga), but many admitted that they often find themselves turning to short-term strategies that are actually poor solutions in the long run. These “solutions” ultimately contributed to greater stress levels in the end.
Managing holiday stress should begin by making sure expectations for the season are manageable. Set realistic goals, such as developing a budget, pacing yourself and organizing your time by writing out a “to-do” list. These ideas will definitely help decrease the stress level. Other tips include:
• Good communication: verbalizing what you mean as well as listening closely to others.
• Avoid over or under-eating: Eat three to five small meals daily. Limit portions and select healthy foods.
• Plan activities: Walk, go sightseeing or rake leaves instead of sedentary activities.
• Get six to eight hours of sleep per night: Don’t forgo rest and, when possible, maintain normal daily routines.
And here are a few tips to take the stress out of holiday shopping:
• Try not to shop at peak times — fewer people usually means fewer problems.
• Parking lot accidents quadruple during the holiday season so don’t get caught up in the parking game. Parking further away instead of closer avoids several problems. You will probably find a space quicker and in less time than it will take to walk from the parking area to the store.
• If possible, do not shop with young kids. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know they do not adapt well to the problems of crowds. Also, they tire easily.
• If you are feeling tense or stressed, don’t pour gasoline on the fire — stay home.
• Store workers are people, too. They have to work under extreme stress and deal with customers and managers.
• Be flexible with your gift shopping goals. Having only one specific gift in mind for a person adds tremendous stress.
• Be spontaneous and get something for yourself. After all, you deserve a reward for putting up with this nonsense.
• When possible, shop online as much as you can. This way, you can shop at your convenience, have as much coffee as you like and take time to deal with the kids. There are no parking lots or annoying people and you don’t have to lug packages around. Delivery is at your front door.
Hopefully, the next two weeks will breeze by. Here’s hoping you’ll be ready for a joyful holiday season and a rested New year!

Ratcliffe is a consultant to the Coastal Health District. You can call her at 876-6399.
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