By Dr. Eric Scalise
• 75% of people experience “extreme stress” during the holiday season
• 69% are stressed by feeling or having a “a lack of time”
• 69% are stressed by perceiving a “lack of money”
• 68% feel greater fatigue
• 53% feel stressed about too much commercialism and advertising hype
• 52% are more irritable
• 51% are stressed over the “pressure to give or receive gifts”
• 44% are stressed about family gatherings
• 37% are stressed about staying on a diet – there is an average 18% increase in eating over the holiday period
• 36% feel greater sadness
• 35% feel greater anger
• 34% are stressed about making/facing travel plans
• 26% feel more lonely
1. Accept the fact right now that you simply cannot do everything and you cannot do it for everyone. Determine what are desires and preferences vs. what are true priorities.
2. Plan ahead as much as possible. Managing and scheduling your time is much better than your time controlling you.
3. Create a budget and stick to it. Don’t try to buy happiness – celebrate and enjoy it.
4. Give up the goal (or obsession) of having to be perfect and/or do everything perfectly. Life rarely works out that way.
5. Give yourself permission to set appropriate boundaries with people. Be willing to say, “No” and don’t feel guilty about it. Every time you say, “Yes,” you are saying, “No” to something else. Say, “No” to the right things.
6. Build in downtime for yourself. Read a book. Play. Relax. Go to a movie. Engage in a favorite hobby. Sit and just be still for a few minutes.
7. Share the tasks; do less, not more. Doing things together, especially when it flows out of genuine relationship, often renews the soul.
8. Don’t give up all of your normal and daily routines. Repetition and rhythm are good ways to minimize anxiety, worry, and depression.
9. Unplug from time-to-time. Be intentional about reducing the amount and use of technology, especially social media. Quiet your soul.
10. Have reasonable expectations for yourself and others. Understand that there may be some distance between the ideal and the real when it comes to family, friends, and schedules. Don’t make it your mission to “fix” people or the past. Instead, give the gift of your time and the ministry of presence.
11. If being lonely or depressed is a concern, get involved. Avoid isolation. Reach out and seek community. Spend some meaningful time offering service to others who also need a word or gesture of love and encouragement.
12. Eat and drink in moderation. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and can compound other symptoms of depression.
13. Be sure to get enough sleep. This is the body and mind’s way of restoring and revitalizing itself. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average person loses almost a day of sleep every week.
14. Listen to your favorite music. One study out of the University of Maryland showed that music can relax blood vessels and increase blood flow, especially in and around the heart.
15. Spend more time in direct sunlight during the winter months. Sunlight increases the production of serotonin, an important mood stabilizing neurotransmitter.
16. Smell the citrus. Research on depression has revealed that citrus fragrances can increase a person’s sense of well-being and alleviate the symptoms of stress because of increased norepinephrine production. Norepinephrine is another important mood-related neurotransmitter.
17. Take a brisk walk or work out on a regular basis. Moderate exercise is an effective stress reliever and has a positive effect on the brain by decreasing anxiety and improving sleep patterns.
18. Watch the caffeine intake (e.g., coffee, tea, chocolate, and soda). This is especially important after 3:00-4:00 pm because caffeine has an almost eight-hour half-life (meaning 50% of its effect is still impacting your body up to eight hours after consumption). Too much caffeine (a stimulant), when combined with increased levels of stress-related adrenaline (also a stimulant), over-amps every system in the body.
19. Meditate on your favorite Scriptures. Have some honey while you do it – food for the soul and for the body. Honey is a proven antioxidant (the darker the better), and has antibacterial properties that help the immune system while also providing a good source of energy.
20. If necessary or appropriate, seek out professional help. Untreated anxiety, depression, addiction, and other stress-related disorders can be potentially dangerous.
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Eric Scalise, Ph.D., LPC, LMFT, is the President of LIV Enterprises & Consulting, LLC and CEO for the Alignment Association, LLC. He is the former Vice President of the 50,000-member American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), as well as the former Department Chair for Counseling Programs at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA. He is an adjunct professor and the Senior Editor for both AACC and the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation. Dr. Scalise is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with 36 years of clinical and professional experience in the mental health field. Specialty areas include professional and pastoral stress and burnout, compassion fatigue, mood disorders, marriage and family issues, combat trauma and PTSD, addictions and recovery, crisis response, grief and loss, leadership development, life coaching, and lay counselor training. He is a published author with Zondervan, Baker Books, and Harvest House, is a national and international conference speaker, and frequently works with organizations, clinicians, ministry leaders, and churches on a variety of issues. Dr. Scalise and his wife, Donna, have been married for 36 years, have twin sons who are combat veterans serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, and three grandchildren.
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