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'Tis the Season: Don't Let the Holidays Stress You Out

This is a guest post by Annie Lynsen, on loan to AARP from Small Act.

It's the most wonderful time of the year...and the craziest. In between the shopping and cooking and parties and family gatherings, most of us will get precious few moments of peace and quiet in the next few weeks.

But by stressing out, you could be making yourself sick. Too much stress can lead to heart problems, digestive problems, and decreased immune functioning that can bring on colds and flu - the last things you need in the midst of the chaos.

So how can you handle the myriad of demands on your time and energy this holiday season? Here are some tips:

  • Delegate: Believe it or not, you don't have to do everything yourself. There's no shame in asking somebody to help you prepare meals or clean and decorate the house. When I was a teenager, my mother put me in charge of wrapping all the gifts, which I enjoyed and saved her a lot of time.
  • Breathe: When it all gets to be too much, step back, take ten seconds, and breathe deeply. You'll find yourself more focused and calm.
  • Manage expectations: Nothing ever turns out perfectly. Make sure you're comfortable with that, and instead try for "best possible." Focus on the things that are most important to you, rather than trying to make everything "just so."
  • Take care of yourself: Eat regular, healthy meals, avoid caffeine, get enough sleep, and try to do some kind of regular physical activity, such as walking, swimming, or biking every day. As much as possible, try to limit the number of treats you consume and focus on getting plenty of fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Carve out personal time: Even if it's 15 minutes a day or an hour a week, devote a little bit of time to restful, rejuvenating activities that you enjoy.

More stress-management tips:

Photo credit: kizzzbeth on Flickr

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