Distressed by holiday plans?

The holidays are a festive time of year, but many people feel too stressed to enjoy the season. They may have too many deadlines, too much shopping to do, or they are juggling too many holiday-related things and not getting enough sleep.

Holidays are a special time of year, but we often place enormous burdens on ourselves by trying to get things “just right.” After all, the holidays come around only once a year. Unfortunately, many people feel this way: “Don’t tell me that worry isn’t good for you. I know better. The things I worry about don’t happen.”

So what can you do to lose the stress before and during the holidays? Plenty. But you have to start by making a commitment to be less stressed and have more fun this year.

Start with a game plan

If you are a chronic worrier, you know what it’s like to focus on things that are out of your control. But worries can lead to fear, tension, anxiety, anger and exhaustion.

It’s time to come up with a holiday de-stress plan that suits your lifestyle. It’s important to prioritize your own needs over everyone else’s desires. At the top of your new stress-free plan tell yourself you are going to “limit” the amount of stress you will accept in your life. You may be surprised how much better you feel when you set limits.

Naturally you can’t control all the variables that can cause stress. Life is always filled with unexpected situations. But when you have a game plan in place you will minimize unwelcome surprises and keep your holidays on track.

Include a budget so you can keep holiday purchases in check. When holiday spending gets out of control, stress is going to follow.

Next, triage holiday stress-filled events. Triage means to prioritize, so take care of the most important issues first, which are often the most stressful.

Be realistic

Take the pressure of trying to make everything perfect off yourself. Perfectionism is a common source of stress. Be clear about your expectations then make sure you celebrate the season without taxing yourself unnecessarily.

There is no better time than now to create a game plan that can help you worry less and change your life before, during, and after the holidays.

Better sleep, less stress

Do you toss and turn and have trouble sleeping at night? You may have difficulty sleeping if your day is crowded with anxiety and stress.

A recent study by the National Sleep Foundation found that as many as one in six Americans is at risk for losing sleep this year due to holiday-related stress.

Did you know that poor sleep can lead to health problems? Studies have shown that when you don’t get quality sleep night after night, it can affect your immune system. Many sleep studies have discovered that how you sleep and rest are directly linked to your well-being and daily health.

Research has shown that sleep is not just good for the body, but is also of vital importance for the brain. Avoid overloading your daily life with tasks and stress. Take these steps for reducing fatigue and stress.

Holiday de-stress tips

Try to keep a positive attitude. Focus on the good things going on in your life. When you reflect on things you’re grateful for and small successes of daily life, you’ll feel more in control when stress-filled circumstances arise.

Write down your concerns. Journal what worries you. It may help pinpoint the real core of some problems so you can work on them more objectively.

Take time out for you. Prioritize doing things you enjoy like getting together with a favorite friend for coffee.

Take one day at a time. Focus on making the most of the present.

Keep busy. If you have too much time to worry about tomorrow, you’ll feel like this. George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright and co-founder of the London School of Economics, said, “The secret of being miserable is to have the leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not.”

Mark Underwood is a neuroscience researcher, president and co-founder of Quincy Bioscience, a biotech company located in Madison, Wis.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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