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Keeping the Holidays Stress-Free

By Michelle Fortune, St. Luke's Hospital CEO

Holiday decorations, baking cookies, preparing for family dinners, fighting crowds for the perfect gifts, and planning travel. Whew! Just reading this list stresses me out. It's natural to want everything to be just right – and that touches on my first tip to lower holiday stress.

The "perfect holiday" is an illusion. Free yourself of the burden and simplify. Your list of "need-to-dos" sets you up for anxiety and disappointment if you're unable to accomplish everything. This is a season for celebration, relationships, and making memories. Our focus should be on simply enjoying family, being thankful for our blessings, and the reason for the season.

Delegate duties when you can. Send an older child or spouse to buy a gift you've not yet purchased. If a dinner guest offers to bring a dish, let them. And have a friend watch your younger child while you run to complete an errand.

Don't over plan. There are tons of activities going on, and you can't be everywhere. Don't sweat it but take control. You don't want the season to become something you dread. Plan your calendar ahead of the holiday and be realistic.

Keep it healthy. Trying to get everything done may cause you to sacrifice exercise, sleep, and healthy eating. In addition, you may consume more alcohol or unhealthy foods than usual. All this combined is a recipe for disaster. Take steps to ensure that your health routine is not interrupted during this time.

Holiday depression is real. It's natural to miss a loved one who has passed. But it's important to remember that those who are gone would not want you to lose your holiday joy but to remember them fondly. Find peace in new ways to celebrate. Sing your favorite songs, remain active with family and friends, and volunteer for causes you find important.

Cut your spending. Forty-two percent of Americans find spending money the most stressful part of the holiday season. So, set a budget and stick to it. Look for deals throughout the year to lower your expenses. Heart-felt handmade gifts, letters, or inexpensive crafts are ways to show your love for others without breaking the bank.

I will close with this blessing that I recently read:

"God's presence brings peace, so I wonder, "Why don't I always feel peaceful?" It's a matter of the mind. Preparations for the holidays can fill my mind so much. Hence, I leave God on the perimeter and start wringing my hands in worry instead of folded in prayer to the One Who can actually do something about my anxieties."

May you find peace this Christmas Season. Merry Christmas, Polk County.

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