Stress : Top Tips for Surviving the Holidays

It's the most wonderful time of the year -- and it's also one of the most stressful times of the year. The holidays present an array of demands, from shopping, cleaning, entertaining, and cooking to parties and other commitments. With a few simple tips, you can minimize stress and stay well during the holidays -- and maybe even relax enough to enjoy them.

Manage stress. When it comes to stress, prevention is the best medicine. Money is a big source of stress during this time of year, so set a budget. Stick to it when you go shopping for food and gifts. A family Yankee swap, homemade gifts, or a donation to charity are ways to save money. Try to stay positive -- people who are optimistic have an easier time dealing with stress. If you're stressed out, take a break. Sitting quietly for as little as 10 minutes can trigger your relaxation response and decrease feelings of stress and anxiety.

Eat healthy. Abandoning healthy eating habits only adds to stress and guilt. Sticking with a wholesome diet can be challenging during the holidays, but your body and mind will thank you for it. Limit fats, salt, and sugary foods. Take time to eat without rushing, and be sure to nourish your gut with fermented foods and probiotics. Studies show that friendly bacteria are important for psychological well-being and a healthy mood.

Think moderation. Realistically, we all indulge a little during the holidays. Just don't go overboard. Before leaving for a party, eat a light snack like a piece of fruit or raw vegetables to curb your appetite, and you'll be less likely to over indulge. Eat slowly and savor small portions of your favorite treats. If you do overeat, make your next meal lighter than usual.

Stay active. Exercise helps relieve stress and prevent weight gain. A brisk walk after dinner will aid digestion, and sneak out alone if you can -- spending just 15 minutes alone can clear your mind and refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Research shows that time outdoors can help reduce stress and boost your mood.

Just say no. Over committing yourself can leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed. If it's not possible to say no, remove something else from your agenda.

Managing your stress levels is crucial to optimum health. Stress plays a major role in maintaining a healthy immune system and can also impact heart health, brain chemistry, and hormonal balance. Take good care of yourself this season to manage stress and enjoy a happy, healthy holiday.