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106.1 The River

Holiday Stress Survival Tips

By Cindi Alpert

“Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a four-pound spoiled Yorkie-Maltese named Gucci.”

It must be nice to be a designer breed miniature lapdog these days. No stress, no financial worries, no commitments, just eat, sleep, play and walk. A typical weekday for Gucci goes something like this: wake up, eat breakfast, walk, go to bus stop, sneak into office building in mommy’s purse, terrorize people at their desks until they pet you, pick up small human at bus stop, go on errands in car, get treat at bank, play with kids, dinner, another walk, then snuggle on couch with humans. That doesn’t even cover all the fun on weekends including rides in the convertible, play dates, visits to the park and numerous pet parades and doggie events. Gucci’s only worry is when my 7-year-old daughter decides to play dress up with her and changes her in and out of one ridiculous outfit after another. I often think of how nice it would be to have Gucci’s life in the midst of the holiday hustle bustle and stress of coping with it all while running a business and being a mother, wife, radio personality, singer and part-time writer.

It’s no wonder so many of us feel like we need to be talked off the ledge during the holiday season. For one, the department stores start ramming it down our throats the day after Halloween. Secondly, the gift giving has gotten out of control. How much “stuff” do we really need? Then there’s the holiday parties you feel obligated to go to, the cooking, shopping, planning, kids, step-kids, in-laws, step-in-laws and on and on, not to mention the kids are out of school for what seems like an eternity, especially when you’re NOT on vacation and expected to be at the office. So, are you feeling it yet?

My parents used to feel it too, because they would tease us and say things like “Kids, money is tight this year and your mother and I think we should have a handmade Christmas where we can get creative and actually make gifts for each other, like they did on Little House on the Prairie.” The very thought of this notion would make us kids cringe and we would protest vehemently. After it was all said and done, the parents gave in and we were tearing around the neighborhood on new 10-speed bikes and playing our new Atari games. As an adult, I am beginning to think that a handmade Christmas sounds like a novel idea. Perhaps I should take up knitting. If you see my husband wearing a really ugly sweater, you’ll know why.

I decided to make it my mission not to get stressed out this year and enjoy the season. I did some research and here are some common sense ideas from the experts.

1. Continue with healthy habits throughout the holidays. A healthy diet and exercise is the best way to keep the blues away. Don’t let the holidays become an excuse to have a free-for-all. Start a new holiday tradition like going for a walk during halftime instead of indulging in that second helping of bread pudding. Also, indulging in too much alcohol can actually increase stress levels. Try to fill up on fruits and vegetables before hitting the holiday parties to avoid overdoing it. Instead of having that extra cocktail, you can still be social and have a seltzer with a splash of cranberry and lime. Your body will thank you for it the next morning when the kids are up at 5 am.
Mark G. Kent, MD, General Surgeon

2. Keep fitness on the menu. You don’t have to do your regular fitness routine at the gym, but if you can manage to do even 15 minutes of cardio, yoga or walking, it allows you to energize, have some ‘me time’ relaxation and burn calories all at the same time. Working moms have so many centrifugal forces pulling on them from different directions. If they just focus on themselves and get a little downtime during the holiday season, it can significantly decrease stress levels.
Debra Durst, MD, Years Younger MediSpa

3. Get a massage. Studies done at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and at The Group Health Research Institute in Seattle found that a 45-minute massage brought on a major spike in lymphocytes, white blood cells that fight bacteria and viruses. It also lessened production of a hormone that is associated with stress levels.
Prevention Magazine, December 2011

4. Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
Mayo Clinic Staff

5. Keep the music playing. One of the great traditions of our family is the Christmas sing-a-long. It was great on Christmas Eve to gather around the family room fireplace and sing “Here Comes Santa Claus” with all the children, and just before midnight we would sing “Silent Night.” On most Christmas Eve’s our great friend Zane Daniel would come by dressed as Santa and pass out gifts to all the children from the big sack he carried on his shoulder. Of course he would bring musical friends with him and we would sing….what a great feeling of joy and peace. Most of the children are all grown up now, but it’s great to see them carry on the tradition. Joy to everyone.
Con Hunley, Singer Songwriter

As for me, I think I’ll take all of the advice from the sources I looked into and from my friends Mark, Debra and Con who contributed. Diet, exercise, music and even a massage is all part of the plan. In case you are interested in my remedy for stress relief, it involves cuddling up on the couch by the fire in my favorite quilt with my husband, our little girl and that spoiled brat lapdog of ours, turning on the radio and reading a book together. “The Night Before Christmas” is one of our favorites.

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