A survey by the American Psychological Association found 69 percent of Americans feel stressed by perceived lack of time while 51 percent are stressed about the “pressure to give or get gifts.” The same survey found that women are more likely than men to report heightened holiday stress — and that they’re less likely to take time to relax or manage that stress in healthy ways.
Here are some tips from neuroscientist and psychologist, Dr. John Kruse, to help people manage stress for better mental health over the holidays and year-round:
- Be active. Numerous studies have shown that being physically active is probably the single most important thing we can do to stave off dementia, and studies have shown benefits for depression, anxiety, and ADHD.
- Pay attention to what you put in your body. Maintain a healthy diet, minimize alcohol, and don’t smoke anything.
- Keep sleep on schedule: For years we have had public service announcements telling us to get eight hours of sleep a night when we have known for decades that consistency in the timing of sleep is just as important as the duration. Circadian factors matter, not just the amount.
- Find and practice a system of meditation or relaxation: Try Zen-based practices, yoga or tai chi, or walking or sitting in nature, that works for your life and your schedule.
- Set “tasks, not tests.” So much of our lives are framed in terms of “tests” and who wins or loses. If you follow this path, your success is defined in terms of what goals others have set for you. Dr. Kruse teaches people to think in terms of “tasks not tests.” This can be helpful when planning what you want to do for the holidays, and for keeping New Year’s resolutions.
“You determine what your goal is, not others; you determine whether you have achieved it or not; and if you are thwarted, then reminding yourself of what the task is will lead you on to future actions,” Dr. Kruse says.