De-Stress Your December!

Many people consider December to be one of their most stressful months of the year. Stress can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and even obesity.

 

Use these tips and tools to curb stress and enjoy the wind-down of the year! 

Focus on Experiences and Activities If the thought of searching, buying, wrapping, and shipping is anything other than holly jolly, consider shifting your focus to shared experiences. We may not be encouraged to travel far, but there are plenty of ways to celebrate, right in our own back yards!

Spend time baking with children.

Take a drive to look at holiday lights.

Bring the hot cocoa, bundle up, and visit a loved one who needs some company. 

Have a family member read a holiday story or share favorite holiday memories virtually over video chat. 

Set Realistic Expectations for Yourself and Others If complications arise, try to look at them as fodder for a funny story instead of something that ruins your day. We can't control everything, but we can control our reactions! Step back, take a deep breath, and think about the opening line of your very own National Lampoon's Christmas story.  If nothing else, this year has taught us about the need to be flexible and open to change!

Help Children Set Realistic Expectations Our holidays this year will likely be different than any of years past. Take advantage of this opportunity to talk about needs versus wants, and how every family has a different set of guidelines. Help the children in your life create wish lists that are in line with your family's values and abilities. makes your children unique? What activities do they enjoy most? Discuss what they use and desire most, instead of what they heard a friend talking about or saw in an advertisement.

(Do I still tend to "spoil" our kids? Sure! But they also understand the importance of giving to others, and that having enough is more important than having everything.)

Incorporate Exercise Regular exercise can decrease tension and both boost and stabilize mood. Walking together with a friend or family member has been shown to reduce stress even further than walking alone. (Walking both figuratively and literally, I believe!) Other forms of activity that can be fun as a family:

Musical Chairs and Freeze Dance are a usually huge hit with the younger kids.

Learn a new sport or teach someone your favorite sport. 

Playing charades can become very active! When they couldn't yet read, this version was helpful!

Create a simple outdoor obstacle/activity course with sidewalk chalk, sticks, or anything you can find around! This will serve two purposes- everyone stays warm AND gets active!

This Easy-to-Store Pogo Stick 

Laugh!  Try a fun game with friends or family, watching a funny movie, tell each other jokes around a fire! Laughter increases relaxation and production of the happy hormones, and has been shown to decrease cortisol levels (the stress hormone). 

Go For the Guac!  Avocado is rich in heart healthy Omega-3 fats, and is a good source of folate. Both of these have been shown to support brain health and positive moods.

Three Cheers for Chocolate! Chocolate is high in magnesium, which promotes relaxation. The decadent produce of the cacao bean also contains other natural mood boosting compounds like anandamide and phenylethylamine.  

Express Gratitude  This can help to realize the resources you have in place to cope with stressors. Send a quick text to a supportive friend. Take a moment to thank the sun for it's warmth. Create a gratitude journal as a way to more fully explore the good in your life, no matter how hard you may have to look. This can be as simple as one line per day in a notebook, or you can use one that has curated prompts. This one has stickers and prompts that can be fun for teens and young at heart adults. Geared toward teaching children the benefits of gratitude, this journal offers quick ideas to get kids thinking about the good in their lives! And try this one as a gift or for yourself - a funny, "no BS" journal you can use to get yourself in the attitude of gratitude, give this one a try! 

Re-Prioritize Take a look at your To-Do Lists. Are there any items you can delegate to someone else? Are there any items that can wait until the next day/week/month? I'm not advocating for procrastination! But this leads us to our next and final and possibly most helpful tip:

Cut It Out! It's possible to make choices for your health and still have a good time. Don't let others pressure you into attending a gathering that you don't want to attend, setting unrealistic expectations for yourself, bringing your children into a situation that you know won't be appropriate. Wellness also includes setting healthy boundaries for yourself and your family! In some cases, the stress of the situation is not worth the stress of saying, "No." 

(For example, we became good at saying "Another time," when our children were young, and we were invited to events that would start near or after bed time. It was disappointing to miss out. But, we knew that things would go south quickly once we got past a certain hour, causing everyone stress - us, our kids, the other guests, and the host or hostess.)

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