Faculty Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

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MACON – If the thought of cramped department stores, holiday jingles and Christmas trees raise your hackles, faculty at Mercer University’s School of Medicine have suggestions to make the stress of the season more manageable.

Krista Swanson Wieters, an instructor in the Department of Community Medicine, recommends the following 10 ways to de-stress during the holidays. Wieters received her master of public health degree with a concentration in health behavior from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and is certified as a group and personal fitness trainer by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America.

Declare your symptoms of stress: If you realize that you are becoming stressed, you can reduce your stress before it turns you into the Grinch! Some symptoms of stress include: clenching your jaw, backache, tension headache, neck and shoulder tension, irritability, trouble sleeping, depression, anxiety, jumpiness, or getting hot and flushed.     

Deny your superhuman status: You weren’t a superhero before December so there’s no need to try to be one now! If you are involved in fewer activities, you can enjoy each one more. Visit the people you enjoy the most and leave some visiting for 2007. Lower your expectations of other people, events, gifts and yourself. If you don’t send out cards or make cookies this year, there is always next year and at least you’ll still have your sanity.

Decide to spend less than you make this Christmas: Don’t let yourself get trapped in materialism this year. To prevent overspending, plan ahead by committing to a set amount of cash that you withdraw from the bank (that you can afford to spend on Christmas) and refuse to spend a penny more. Consult your personal accountant – your wallet – every time you make a purchase. When the credit card statements come in January you will feel proud and relieved. Your relatives and friends want gifts or cards with thought, not a high price tag!

Date yourself: Have you been naughty or nice this year? Either way, you deserve some “me” time to take care of yourself and reduce stress. To pamper yourself try these ideas: take yourself out to a relaxing lunch, enjoy a peaceful walk in Georgia’s warmer climate, attend yoga or exercise classes, get a massage, take a hot bath, read a good book, relax by the fireplace or curl up with a beloved pet. 

Dazzle others: Don’t have a “Blue Christmas” this year! People often feel lonely around the holidays because it’s the time of year that emphasizes social engagements and family activities. Rather than pouting, realize that you are not the only lonely person in the city! Make it a point to reach out to others by inviting them to your home, church activities or free events around the state. For example, Mercer University welcomes the public this winter with many free or low-priced concerts, plays and sporting events.

Do good: Give yourself a sense of belonging, meaning and that warm fuzzy feeling this Christmas! By shopping at locally-owned businesses, you are supporting the local economy (your friends and neighbors) and avoiding the traffic nightmares of Atlanta. By contributing your time or money to a local charity you may meet some wonderful people and you are making Macon a better place to live and work.

Develop a sense of community: When you appreciate the beauty Macon has to offer, you will start humming, “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays” as you enjoy the festive lights and decorated historical mansions in downtown Macon, work off all the holiday goodies with a walk down the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail, or get some fresh air at the Ocmulgee Indian Mounds.

Detach from your normal responsibilities/activities: Are there any activities from which you could take a temporary leave of absence? Could little Johnny survive without his piano, basketball and basket weaving lessons for a few weeks so that the holidays aren’t so cramped? Think about your weekly schedule and try to eliminate any unnecessary responsibilities and events, and ask for, or hire help if needed.

Detox yourself: A cocktail or two is fine, but if you are using alcohol, food, cigarettes or drugs to relieve stress or deal with emotions, realize that these are only short term solutions. When you choose to manage stress in healthy ways (communication, exercise, relaxation, proper sleep and nutrition) you are giving yourself the gift of a body and mind that is and feels well (and that is truly priceless).

Dwell on the spiritual aspects of Christmas: Yes, there is a reason for the season and it is not to max out your credit cards, to gain 10 pounds or to stress you out! By attending local religious services, church choirs and by taking time for personal reflection and meditation, you can celebrate the true meaning of the season.

About Mercer University:

Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University has 7,300 students; 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies; major campuses in Macon and Atlanta; four regional academic centers across the state; a university press; teaching hospitals in Macon and Savannah; an educational partnership with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta; an engineering research center in Warner Robins; a performing arts center in Macon; and a NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit www.mercer.edu.