Minimize Holiday Stress: Tips From A Working Mom

By Jessica Poole, Certified Athletic Trainer

It is said that this is  the happiest time of the year. But for me, it’s also  the most stressful.

Stressbegins with the grocery trip for Thanksgiving preparations and ends with the cleanup from New Years Eve.

Whether it’s the stress from family, budget strain, weight gain, over indulgences and all the preparation for the upcoming parties, visitors and expectations, there is a lot of stress sitting on our shoulders.

Stress, when it motivates and causes us to reach new heights, is good. When we are beaten down, irritable, gain weight and lose sight of meaningful priorities, stress is not our friend.

So, today, I hope to offer some encouragement for handling the load. Some of these tips are from articles read and wellness classes taught over the years, but most, are from my own experiences as a wife, mother and daughter, who thinks everyone who crosses my path deserves a “Southern Living Christmas delivered by Mrs. Claus herself.”

·         Expectations--the higher the expectations, the harder the fall when you don’t meet it, or think you didn’t meet it. Listen to that last part. I’m not saying not to set standards for yourself, or your holidays. Just keep them reasonable, doable and cheerful. I guarantee your effort means more than all the decorations, gifts or dishes prepared.

·         Prepare early--Get prep work for the holiday madness done ahead of time. Pull out the Christmas china now and make sure it’s clean. My mother bakes all her cake layers and freezes them, then frosts them with less chaos and, as a bonus, they are cooled and no frosting slides off. What’s on your prep list that can be done now? Presents are wrapped as they enter our house so I’m not up till 3 or 4 a.m. Christmas morning. That makes it very hard forSanta to stop in if I’m still up!

·          Prepare to be exhausted--plan your rest times. I prepare my attitude to expect fatigue. I know that if I am pouring life, fun and excitement about Christmas into my family and friends I am going to be tired. We will have guests in and out, parties to attend, Nutcracker Ballets to see, shopping and cooking to be done. This is a great problem to have. I am going to be tired, so I try to eat well, set reasonable bed times and say no to the urgent so I can focus on the important. I will rest in January. Now is the time to make this a memorable holiday season for my children and family. We pack in as much as we can.

·         Exercise--Physical activity keeps us healthy in many ways. When we exercise we decrease cortisol and increase endorphin release. these are stress busters. Stick to your exercise routine. Check out my posts in the archives from last December to read about tips on exercise during the holidays.

·         Nutrition--When stressed we crave and turn to junk. Yes, we will be indulging in sweets and goodies as it is the holidays. So do consider your diet to help ward off the weight gain associated with stress. Gravitate towards fruits, vegetables, lean meat and dairy to give you energy. It will also help your mood and attitude.

·         Keep to normal schedules--Keeping to our normal schedules as much as possible helps keep stress at bay. When our kids keep their normal bedtimes, they are less cranky the next day. They know what’s coming day-to-day. Same goes for you. It’s hard to keep to a normal schedule during the holidays and especially on weekends, so do what you can to keep to normal hours on the other days.

·         Stick to the budget--Set a budget and keep to it. It will help to keep the stress away in January.

·         Set rules--Lots of stress can surface when a group of people (ahem, family) gather. Don’t want to discuss the latest immigration issues around the Christmas dinner table? Make a rule: no political conversation. The kids sit around drowning in tablets and smart phones and watches? Make a rule that electronics are not allowed between specific hours. Your home, your rules. Relieve the stress of others and ask that your rules be followed. We even have a few gift rules. Absolutely no markers. Not even washable (they are not completely washable off skin). Yep, after scrubbing it off my babies’ faces multiple times, that’s the rule. Mom is happy and the grandparents know my rule.

·         Finally, a cheerful heart is as good as medicine--Perspective and cheer goes a long way. Find a way to fill your homes and hearts with laughter. When those expectations go the way of broken ornaments and burnt cheesecakes, laugh.  I am thankful that I have someone to break an ornament and an oven that works.  A positive attitude and laughter relieves stress. Grab a loved one, a child, a spouse and cuddle up with the Griswalds, Snoopy, or George Bailey and laugh!

I am hoping each of you has a wonderful holiday season. 2016 is a few short weeks away and I am praying it is filled with peace, love and joy for each of you!

For Jessica’s previous posts about fitness, use the blog’s search box, above on the right, and type in Jessica Poole.  To learn more about Gwinnett Medical Center’s complete sports medicine program, including our Running Clinic, visit


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