The holiday season: the most wonderful time of the year or the most stressful? Sixty-two percent of adults have a hard time feeling jolly as the result of the elevated stress they feel during the holiday season. From financial worries (hi there, nieces and nephews with very expensive tastes) to family issues (looking at you, flagrantly racist great uncle), it’s no wonder that most of us aren’t feeling the holiday cheer.
When you add menopause to the mix, things get even more complicated. Daily activities are hard enough when you’re dealing with constant hot flashes and mood changes, and holiday stress can easily trigger menopause symptoms. Outside of hibernating for the next two months, here are five tips for managing holiday stress.
1. Make time for yourself
You probably don’t need us to tell you that stress can take a serious toll on your body, triggering everything from sleeplessness to weight gain to depression. Even worse, when you’re experiencing menopause chronic stress can make you more susceptible to disease, including cancer. Stressed out yet?
During the holidays, it’s typical for women to focus on everyone but themselves. But your health comes first, and you deserve to relax every once in a while. “Me time” doesn’t have to involve a full-fledged spa day (but it could!), so here are a few ideas you can use to de-stress.
- Exercise. Take a 30-minute jog or try a free online yoga class.
- Sleep. Naps are highly underrated, so take as many as you need to in addition to getting seven to eight hours of sleep every night.
- Write. Set a timer for 15 minutes and write about everything that is on your mind without stopping. This can be incredibly relieving.
- Vent. Call a close friend or trusted family member and let it all out.
- Watch your favorite movie. Or read your favorite book. Whatever brings back good memories.
2. Say no
Don’t want to travel to see your extended family? Stay home. Don’t want to host dinner? Hand the baton to someone else. Don’t want to go to your company’s awkward holiday party? RSVP no.
The simple act of saying no can eliminate a ton of holiday stress.Many of us feel guilty about saying no, which can lead to even more stress. According to Beth A. Collins-Sharp, Ph.D., you shouldn’t apologize or make excuses if someone does call you out for saying no (and there’s always that one person.) “If someone says, ‘Hey! Where are the gingerbread cookies? We can’t have this holiday without your gingerbread cookies!’ that’s your cue to say, ‘Well, let’s try. Here, have a Snickerdoodle.’ Just smile and declare, ‘I decided not to stress myself out this year. I wanted to focus on being together with friends and family,’” she says.
3. Make a list, check it twice (or three times, or four times)
When it comes to your holiday to-dos, prioritization is the name of the game. Make a long list of everything on your mind that you want to accomplish for the holidays. Then prioritize. What’s a must-do that needs to get done soon? What’s a nice-to-have that can wait until later? What on your list isn’t really necessary at all? What can wait until after the holidays?
Once you have a working list of your biggest priorities, decide how you want to tackle them. Do you want to tackle the smaller, easy tasks first? Or would you prefer to get the bigger, harder tasks out of the way?
Finally, leave post-its for yourself as reminders. A symptom of menopause is forgetfulness, and the act of writing down reminders can help — especially when your to-do list feels like it’s miles long.
4. Avoid triggers
It’s easier said than done, but try to steer clear of these triggers of holiday stress:
- Caffeine. It can elevate your cortisol levels and stress you out even more. And if you’re sensitive to caffeine, you might lose some much-needed sleep. Instead, opt for an herbal iced tea, which does double duty to cool you down if you’re experiencing hot flashes.
- Alcohol. Even though a drink or two might make you feel relaxed and sleepy, alcohol can cause sleeplessness and make hot flashes even worse. The solution? Try a healthy holiday moc-tail that will make your imbibing friends and family jealous.
- Sweets. If you’re worried about weight gain during menopause, moderation is key for surviving the holidays. We’re not saying you have to avoid dessert at all costs, but you should try to focus on filling up your plate with vegetables and lean proteins.
- Toxic people. Yes, people count as triggers, and you’re allowed to avoid them. Whether it’s a family member you don’t get along with or a friend you don’t want to see, don’t feel obligated to see them just because it’s the holidays.
5. Accept that your holidays may not go as planned
“Chances are you are your own biggest critic. Your personal standard is higher than anyone else’s standard for you, and you want everything this holiday season to be perfect,” writes Ellen Dolgen at Huffington Post.
But everything can’t be perfect all the time. You can’t be perfect all the time, nor should you have to be — especially during the holiday season. You don’t need to attend every holiday event if you aren’t feeling up to it. You don’t have to buy expensive gifts if you can’t afford them. You don’t have to be around people who you don’t like.
And if your holidays don’t go as planned, it’s not the end of the world! Your health should always be a priority, throughout the holidays and the rest of the year.