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How to Stress Less During the Holiday Season

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By Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson

As we approach the holidays, I want to deal with some heavy issues that could derail our joy. Last week, I talked about the topic of grief and how many deal with it during what is supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year.”

It’s that feeling of sorrowful heaviness that comes from perceived loss – of loved ones, time, status, money, jobs – whatever someone perceives as valuable to them. And with all the holiday gatherings, shopping trips, parties and sleepovers upcoming, it’s easy to start to feel the effects of another mental challenge – stress.

The World Health Organization defines stress as worry or tension caused by a difficult situation. And let me add, it could be worry or tension around a situation that we simply perceive, or view, as being difficult. Another online definition cites it as our body’s response to pressure or specific demands.

The American Psychological Association commissions a study annually to look at the effects of stress, and in 2022, concluded that “we are facing a national mental health crisis that could yield serious health and social consequences for years to come.”

That study also showed many people deal with stress in their daily lives with concerns of over inflation – rising food, gas and living costs. In fact, it was the number one area of concern for that study’s participants. Now, factor in the added stressor of the holidays and all the expectations that come with that.

And although we talk much about “feeling stressed,” the facts show it leaves physical residue which include headaches; muscle tension or pain; sleep problems and fatigue.

It affects your mind and mood with excessive worry or racing thoughts; a lack of focus and an overall uneasiness including anxiety and depression. And it gets worse with time – the longer you tolerate stress, the more opportunity it has to cause long-term, debilitating effects on your mind and body.

Chronic stress can lead to negative emotional outbursts, anxiety and depression, digestive disorders, heart disease, high blood pressure and weight gain just to name a few.

So, you can see how important it is to deal with this, because the reality is, stress isn’t going anywhere. We are all confronted by it (sometimes daily) and there will always be factors that push our buttons and challenge us to feel some kind of way. But could the solution in managing stress be as simple as how you look at it, or changing your response to stressful situations?

If you miss an engagement, perhaps that was an opportunity or time you needed to take care of something else. Could you employ a system to help remind you of those important dates?

If you don’t have all the food on the table when the guests arrive at your dinner party, perhaps you can enlist the help of a friend or family member to engage invitees in an impromptu, fun holiday game while you continue to prepare?

If you forget to buy or can’t find that perfect gift for your friend or family member, perhaps a homemade gift – fashioned in love – will be more significant because it was birthed in your creativity? Or could the gift of you, or your time, be just as significant for them?

Other practical tips to manage stress include getting regular physical exercise; practicing relaxation techniques; spending time with friends and family; getting enough sleep and making sure you eat well-balanced meals.

My point in all of this is that you have a role to play. There are things you can do to manage stress, including changing the way you look at situations that confront you, even more so at this time of year.

I sincerely encourage you to pivot your perspective, then employ some practical steps to fight stress (that I mentioned above).

We begin to feel stress over what isn’t done, what we can’t make, and what we can’t do and what we don’t have. Release the control of that perceived loss, accept it, and be grateful for what remains in your hands. Steward that well and watch the joy and peace that flow forth from you as result.

As always, I’m cheering for you and just an email away if you need to chat.

Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson is a life coach, author and speaker. Her column appears each month online and in The Birmingham Times. You can contact Keisa at keisasharpe@yahoo.com and visit http://www.allsheanaturals.com for natural hair and body products.