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TOPS offers tips to bring joy back to holiday celebrations

Dec. 13, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

Cook, clean, shop, bake, wrap -- repeat! December is here and the holiday season is upon us. If your to-do list is growing fast and your blood pressure is rising, you're not alone. American Psychological Association (APA) research shows that multiple stressors affect how we feel during the holiday season. As many as 69 percent of us feel stress about not having enough time to complete that to-do list and not having enough money to spend.

Pressure to give gifts is another big concern that leads to stress in close to 51 percent of those surveyed. Those who experience elevated levels of stress are more susceptible to health ailments, including depression, sleep problems, and a lack of energy.

Members of TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, know that adopting healthy attitudes is important to manage the stressors that can overwhelm one's life. TOPS encourages you to consider these strategies to enjoy the season and avoid holiday stress.

Make a plan on paper. Think about and write down what has stressed you in the past, and make conscious decisions to eliminate that from this year's season.

Cut unnecessary activities. It's okay to say no. Instead, enjoy to the fullest the activities that fit easily into your schedule.

Don't abandon healthy habits. Having a healthy snack before a holiday party can keep you from going overboard on sweets or drinks. Get plenty of sleep, and continue your exercise program. Overindulgence may only add to your stress and guilt.

Simplify your expectations. Cut back on things that overload your life, like holiday cards, parties, or baking for friends and family. If you can't stand the thought of scaling back, then revise the scope of what you do to lighten your load.

Set limits for togetherness. Recall if too much or too little family time has been the source of stress in the past, and manage your holiday visits accordingly. If loneliness is a concern for you, consider having a few friends to your own home or volunteer in the community to fill time and broaden your circle. Do something for yourself -- check out and join your local TOPS chapter for support and motivation.

Breathe! Take deep breaths to increase your oxygen intake. Meditation can be practiced on the spot. Visualize that you are breathing in serenity and breathing out stress. You'll be amazed how good you feel.

Make time for yourself. Just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, can refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Take a walk. Listen to soothing music. Spend time with a pet, or just lie down on the couch and clear your mind.

Holiday stress is predictable, with a defined beginning and end -- so make plans to reduce the amount of stress you experience to lessen the negative impact it has.

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