By Sarah Eneix
The smell of freshly baked sugar cookies lingers in the air as the sounds of laughter fill the kitchen. The home of the Martins is festively decorated and ready for the holiday season to begin - but this was not always the case.
The hustling and bustling of the holiday season was known all too well by Linda Martin.
"During the holidays, my home used to be one of complete chaos and caused me a lot of stress," she said. "It meant time away from my family, time sending out cards, time baking cookies, and keeping up with our loads of holiday traditions that my plate of life was too much to handle."
Folding her arms and taking a seat at the counter table, Martin recalled a more difficult time in her life.
"I used to decorate the inside and outside of the house like a catalog," she recalled. "It was time-consuming and a lot of work to do on my own. I made sure to make a batch of cookies every day, each one different from the days previous. The weekends, too, were tough. My family would be consumed with going to holiday parties, and shopping for presents that there was little time to relax and enjoy the season."
As most holiday shoppers know, the holiday season is filled with decorating, giving, and almost always the stress of creating the picture-perfect holiday for family and friends. During this time, the stores are packed with long lines, tired customers, and lots of spending. Although it is a festive time for many, it can also be a stressed-packed holiday that can make it difficult to enjoy.
"When I was a child, the holidays were my favorite time of year, but when I became an adult they started to become my least favorite time," Martin explained. "I had talked to a few friends who had given suggestions about how to handle the stress, and it prompted me to look more into ways to decrease the stress and anxiety of the holidays."
Her quest to find less stress became even more important when her mother became ill.
"My mother loved the holidays when my siblings and I were growing up, and she always made it special," Martin said. "After her cancer diagnosis in early December of 2015, we did not know how much time my mother would have. So I knew I needed to find easier ways to make the holidays less stressful and easier so I could give my mom the care and attention she needed."
Stress relief is an important part of staying healthy during the holidays. Try these remedies to stay away from stress and enjoy the holidays.
Make A List: The holiday season can be filled with many busy and important activities, so the best way to ensure you will not forget to do a task is to make a list.
"Write down what you need to do and stick to the list to stay on task," Martin said. "It can keep you focused and calmer."
Create a Budget. "It is easy to get carried away with spending when you are buying for the people you love, but it is important to keep in mind how quickly money can add up," said Sydney Shaw, a student of finance at Niagara University. "To avoid the stress of money, create a budget that you will spend on each person so you ensure that you will not go over your limits this holiday season."
Plan Ahead. Set aside days that you will go shopping, baking, or any other activity you want to do. By planning ahead, you will avoid the last-minute scramble and be able to enjoy your holiday more.
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. Stop worrying about doing it all.
"I have found that it is important to focus your energy on enjoying the people in your life, so if there is some clutter in your home or dinner is a few minutes late, it is OK," said Madeline Alan, a working mother of three. "The holiday becomes much more enjoyable when you focus on what really matters."
The holidays can be challenging, so don't be afraid to seek help and comfort in these remedies.
Fit in Exercise. "It may seem like the last thing you want to do, but going for a run or hitting the gym can be the best thing for your body during times of stress," said Jake Smith, a former Division II collegiate athlete at Mercyhurst University. "You body releases endorphins that help boost your mood."
Take a Breather. Make some time for yourself. Spend some time alone or go for a walk. These small instances may refresh you enough to help you finish the tasks you need to accomplish.
Pick Your Battles. Even if you are a calm and collected person, the holidays can be a trying time.
"Set aside your differences and be OK with agreeing to disagree. It saves energy and argument in the long-term," said Emily Sullivan, sister of five siblings. "You will have less anxiety when you pick your battles."
Eat Real Food. Inevitably, individuals, this time of year, tend to indulge in sugary, empty-calorie "treats." These treats though lack the nutrition one needs to be their best. During the holiday season, it is especially important to eat fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and nuts and seeds, as well as healthy fats. Your body will thank you later.
Hold on to Daily Routines. "I really enjoy reading before bed and I make sure to do that more during the holidays," said David Johnson, a UPS pilot who delivers packages year-round. "The holidays should not compromise the things that you enjoy doing."
Be Present. "During the holidays, time rarely stands still, so it is important to take time and be present in your life and the people surrounding you," Martin said. "Take time to live in the moment and enjoy the holidays, because they are such a joyous time for many."
"Once I started doing these tasks, I found that it was easier to enjoy the holidays and give more to my family," Martin added. "I did not feel pulled in all directions and was much happier than years past. It shows today in my home, my happiness, and my joy for the holidays each year they come around."
The holidays are a time of high stress for many and, even if you're a calm and collected individual, they can still seem overwhelming. These practical tips may help to decrease your stress levels, but do not be afraid to speak with a doctor or mental health professional if you're really struggling. They may be able to help you find other ways to cope - and maybe even get you through the holiday season with a smile on your face!