As the calendar year comes to an end and the holiday season is upon us, we have the opportunity to reflect on the many gifts we have received and to spend time with family and friends. While these are times for celebration and good relationships, these gatherings with family and friends and even busier schedules than normal can put a strain on our physical and mental health.

Many of us think that if we could just figure out how to relate better to some family member, how to better manage our schedule — or shop smarter — then we could get through the coming weeks without holiday stress. Maybe so, but we also can help ourselves by following some simple practices:

  • Keep up your exercise routine: Time pressures quickly can make it so that it is even harder to find time to exercise. However, that 30- to 60-minute workout even three or four days a week not only helps you burn calories, but it also helps to reduce your stress levels.
  • Manage your stress: Sometimes family gatherings can be stressful depending on the relationship dynamics. Know this going into the event. Avoid triggers that will make meetings confrontational. If you can’t do this, get away from the person who is creating the tension. You can manage shopping stress by preparing before you go to the stores. Remember that stores will be crowded. Plan to take your time and enjoy the festive atmosphere.
  • Find quiet time: If you have a quiet spiritual practice or non-spiritual practice, be faithful to it. Even a few minutes of quiet every day will help with stress relief.
  • Eat smart: Gatherings this time of year often involve rich foods that many people don’t normally eat. Be aware of this and try to mix in fruits and vegetables whenever you can. Also, try to stay away from the extra helping at holiday meals.
  • Watch your alcohol consumption: If you drink alcohol, also make sure you drink non-alcoholic beverages. Alcohol depletes your body of fluids and can lead to dehydration if done in excess. Drink 8 to 12 ounces of water for every alcoholic beverage you drink. A good rule of thumb is to drink no more than one alcoholic beverage an hour to avoid intoxication and its consequences. Of course, even in small amounts, alcohol can impair someone’s judgment.
  • Most of all, remember that these are times to enjoy yourself, your family and friends.

If you have questions, please call the Centers for Primary Care at 813-6800 (UofL Health Care Outpatient Center) or 852-5205 (Cardinal Station).