As summer ends and we head into fall, thoughts of the holidays begin to arise, and those thoughts tend to involve something we usually want to avoid---stress.
Unfortunately for many of us, the holidays are a harbinger of stress, and preparing ourselves in advance is one way to prevent the (often unavoidable) stressors of the season from transforming us into walking bundles of nerves.
When living with diabetes, we recognize that controlling stress is an important aspect of our overall self-care regimen, and with the tempting potential for overeating and overindulgence during the holiday season, it’s all the more reason to get our stress under control and keep ourselves in equilibrium to whatever extent we can manage.
Avoidance of stress is a lovely notion that can seem unrealistic, there are indeed some stressors that we can plan for, going so far as to avoid them if we can (or at least mitigate their power over us).
One way that many of us run into trouble around the holidays in terms of stress truly comes down to poor planning and preparation. Granted, our lives are busy (and only get busier towards the end of the year when travel and holiday celebrations enter the fray), but we can also thoughtfully prepare for what’s coming by acting preemptively.
Taking The Stress Out of Gift-Giving
For those for whom shopping for gifts and shipping them on time for the holidays is a true source of stress, there are now many options for assuaging the pain of that process.
Most obvious, of course, is the commonplace ability of anyone with an Internet connection and a credit card to purchase gifts online and pay an extra fee to have them both gift-wrapped and shipped. Online gift certificates and gift cards are also an easy route to choose, these types of gifts being especially popular with young recipients.
Taking a different tactic altogether, some families choose to forego gifts altogether, electing instead to simply spend time together. Other families donate the money they would have spent on gifts to a favorite cause in honor of the holidays and one another.
For others, purchasing and collecting gifts throughout the year can be a great way to decrease the pressure of holiday shopping when everyone else is frantically rushing around. (For example, my wife and I had 95% of our holiday gifts purchased by Halloween, thus our November and December will be spent in less stressful holiday preparations unrelated to shopping.)
Beyond the Physical
In areas unrelated to the physical ramifications of holiday preparations, this is where the rubber truly hits the road in terms of preparing in a way that’s sane, measured, and healthy.
Truly, while there's indeed stress related to the shopping, cooking, cleaning and traveling often involved in the holiday season, what happens in our minds is what dictates how we survive through this frequently challenging time of year.
Ask yourself these questions:
· How do I mentally and emotionally approach the things I need to do in preparation for the holidays?
· Are there things I can delegate to others?
· Are there things that I can truly forget about doing altogether?
· How do I feel? What messages do I tell myself about the holidays?
· How can I change my perception of this time of year?
· How can I care for myself amidst the many responsibilities and tasks that are facing me?
· Are there ways that I’m making this harder than it needs to be?
You get the idea. No matter how early you shop, no matter how many gifts you order online, what happens in your mind means more than any other preparation or tactic.
Of course, feel free to shop in advance, wrap gifts at Halloween, shop online or forego gift-shopping altogether. However, no matter how you slice it, some of the stress of the holidays will rub off on you, and you may very well find yourself caught in the frenzy.
So, prepare your mind, prepare your body, and prepare yourself for what’s ahead.
In the weeks to come, we’ll continue to address the holidays, discussing tactics for survival, happiness and thriving amidst the potential for chaos and stress. After all, the holidays are about celebration, fun, family and enjoyment, so let’s make sure we reap the rewards that this special time of year has to offer by approaching the holidays in a healthy way.