NEW BLOG SERIES – Holiday Stress

“So much to do and not enough time to do it.”
“I wish there were more than 24 hours in a day.”

You’ve all heard of and probably even spoken these statements before.  What is it about the holidays that intensifies these and other stress-related feelings?  That’s easy….  Shopping for gifts takes TIME; an increased number of social gatherings takes TIME; cooking for either your own party or to contribute to someone else’s takes TIME; putting up decorations takes TIME. We’re pushing what little free/downtime we have to almost negative numbers!

In part one of this two part series, I’ll discuss one cause of holiday stress and some possible solutions.

So why, when this is supposed to be a happy, joyous and thankful time of year, are so many people feeling the effects of stress like not sleeping well, having more headaches, stomach issues, nervousness and maybe worst of all to most of us, the inability to use moderation with the never ending feasting that accompanies the holidays?

The answer lies in finding ways to better manage our current activities to free up some extra time for the added holiday undertakings. Can you guess how we currently accomplish this? Come on, don’t feign ignorance to what I’m talking about…. You know as well as I do that when push comes to shove, the first two things to go are sleep and exercise. Two of the three most important activities that help us cope with the stressors in our lives!

It’s a well-known fact that exercise and sleep play a major role in how well we cope with stress. Just think about the last time you were seriously sleep deprived and how you may have felt cranky, foggy brained, even uncoordinated. Studies have shown where significant sleep deprivation can have the same impairing effect as alcohol. How can we expect to perform in an efficient manner and add even more tasks if losing sleep makes the quality of those tasks seem as if we were drunk doing them?

The role of exercise in stress reduction is also well established. Exercise also helps produce a better sleep quality. So it’s a domino effect – trying to squeeze more into everyday usually causes us to give up exercise, then lack of exercise affects our sleep patterns, and finally the lack of quality sleep (or maybe just the hours we allow ourselves to sleep) causes us to be even less productive during the day.  It’s a vicious cycle!

How then, do we modify our behaviors to bring the joy back into the season? Recently published on by Jennifer Cohen, when looking at leaders like Margaret Thatcher, Frank Lloyd Wright and Robert Iger (CEO of Disney) common traits among these and many other successful leaders included:

      • Start the day early
      • Exercise
      • Eat Breakfast

And wait…..drum roll please…..

      • Map out your day

How many times do you think to yourself that you’ve had this incredibly busy day, yet when you look back, got nothing done! We get so wrapped up in the whirlwind of daily life or “fires,” that we don’t have time to work efficiently on what’s important. Most of us go through the day just “winging” it. Winging it is the enemy my friends. Not only in business, or our home lives, but probably most importantly, in our nutritional plan for the day. When our time and energy are zapped away, we tend to wing it through our day nutritionally. How often do we make good choices under these circumstances?

Since nutrition plays such a huge role for all of us, let’s focus there. Where do we start? You guessed it, planning!

Starting right now…… not tomorrow….. but right now. Sit back wherever you are, and think about your next meal. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, we all have a next meal in front of us. Are you going to be home? At work? On the road? It doesn’t matter where you are, you have to eat and the goal is to eat healthy most of the time. (Because none of us are perfect!) If your place of employment has a cafeteria is there a menu you can look at before going? If so, look through it and find what you want to eat BEFORE you go there. Visualize yourself walking up to the grill and ordering the grilled chicken sandwich and asking for it open faced, hold the mayo. If you were to just walk in and see and smell the pizza, or any food you consider your weakness, how likely are you to go for that pizza rather than investigate other healthier options? See what I mean about planning?

Once you’ve tackled the immediate, it’s time to think about how to take it to the next level. That means not only planning the next meal, but also the next day and even week.  If you can get into a routine of planning out your meals a week at a time, that habit alone will reduce the daily decisions you have to make and hence the stress that inherently comes with decision making–Not to mention save TIME, which we determined the lack of was the basis of a lot of our holiday stress.

Hopefully reading this will create a can-do energy that ignites a new feeling of power and confidence. Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Personally, in this situation, I like Nike’s motto – Just Do It!!

In part 2 of this series on holiday stress, we’ll tackle “Reality…. Plan B to the rescue.”

About the Author:
Tammy Beaumont, BSN, RN, CBN, is an OAC Committee Member, a registered nurse, a certified bariatric nurse and an obesity survivor who had gastric bypass surgery in 2003 and has maintained a 135 pound weight-loss. Since then she has changed the focus of her nursing career and now works with patients wanting to follow the same journey to a healthy lifestyle. She is also a member of the OAC National Board of Directors

One Comment for this Post
  • Laura vt
    December 16, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Thank you for this great reminder ! I needed to hear this today!

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