Written by Brian Swope, MFT

Originally published on PhiladelphiaMFT

The Christmas season is in full swing with family gatherings already begun and more to follow. It can be a hectic and stressful time of year from shopping and gift giving to holiday parties and interactions with people we’re glad to see again and some we’re not.

Too much stress can bring out the worst in us and so it’s important to remember this time of year that showing a little love to ourselves can go a long way toward improving how we are with those around us. The more centered we are, the more we are able to handle the curveballs that life pitches this time of year.

Being centered makes it a little easier for us to show compassion and gratitude in situations where it’s needed and not easily shown. And isn’t that a reason for the holiday season, ending the year on a good note to carry through to the next year?

Some gifts to yourself that can help you give a little season’s cheer to those around you:

1. The holidays are all about eating – gorging even – but diet can have quite an effect on the mind and body. Are you stress eating or are you really hungry? The better we know ourself, the easier this is to determine. Taking note of this, and even avoiding the food coma can mitigate the effects of sugar highs and crashes, headaches and upset stomachs as well as making a New Year’s resolutions of living healthier a little easier to start and maintain.

2. Ditto for your workout routine. Exercise is a great way to reduce to stress so letting this slip during the holiday season can increase the daily stress that you’ve been dealing with and compound it with any extra stressors that come your way this time of year. If regular exercise isn’t your thing, take advantage of the nice weather and walk around to do your shopping and errands.

3. Tune out. There’s no need to spend your Christmas feeling like a hamster in a running wheel. Make it a point to find some time to relax at home and read, enjoy a hot bath, veg out on the couch with your loved one or spend some time playing with your pet – whatever it is that relaxes you physically and mentally. It’s a great way to reset and better handle the next day.

4. Giving either your time or items (food, toys, living necessities). Altruism gives a mental lift to the do-er as well as making the season a little easier for the receiver.

These all sound like simple things, but sometimes these are the very things that get lost when life gets hectic. When the little things get forgotten about and you notice the change, stop for 5 minutes. Breath deeply and ask yourself what’s missing. It’s not an extra task to do, it’s taking care of yourself.

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