Get Out in Front of Holiday Stress

Three things about the winter holidays are unavoidable. First, there are plenty of tempting things to put into our mouths. Second, at every turn, we are susceptible to being ambushed by stressful moments. Third, our children and other young people in the immediate environment observe our behavior, and their subconscious minds squirrel away the information, “This is how grownups act in this setting.”

Unfortunately, it’s not always valid information. Sometimes, it’s a blueprint for very inappropriate and harmful behavior that will then be imitated and passed along to the next generation. One of the biggest favors we can do for posterity is to figure out how to navigate the holidays with grace and compassion — including compassion for ourselves. As the Mayo Clinic staff says in their article about avoiding stress and depression:

With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.

So here, from those renowned experts, are more suggestions about how to maintain equilibrium during the holiday season. We may have heard them all before, but have we tried them? Have we given them a chance? We may have dismissed excellent tips because they sound too simple and elementary to actually do any good. But that kind of attitude can be very self-defeating! All these ideas are based on the hints, with perhaps a bit of creative embellishment.

What to do?

First, keep in mind the sensible formula, “Can’t hurt, might help!” Making the effort to get enough sleep, for instance, costs nothing and could bring abundant rewards. Avoiding excess is a good plan on any day of the year, and limiting one’s intake of alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs during this season will almost certainly pay dividends.

It is a good idea to pre-empt opportunities for overindulgence by, for instance, downing a carrot or some other healthful snack before attending a food-intensive event. If you have ever dabbled in yoga or meditation, now is a good time to give it another go. Even the simplest deep-breathing exercises can make a difference.

Reading something frivolous, like a romance novel, can cleanse the emotional palate. If the living room is a wonderland of twinkly colored lights, find a solitary chance to just sit there for a while and let them hypnotize you. If the weather allows, a jog or a walk can trip the reset button and make a world of difference. A 15-minute lie-down with headphones and stately classical music could provide surprising relief — and you won’t know until you try!

The mental diet is important, too. Granted, the world is kind of a mess right now, and it is a good citizen’s duty to follow events and keep some kind of awareness about what goes on out there. But maybe over the holidays, we could try cutting our consumption of hard news in half, just for a couple of weeks. After a break, it’s not that hard to catch up. (Personal note: As a friend once said, “If the world ends, somebody’s bound to tell me about it.”)

This partial ban, by the way, should probably include social media. Sure, we might miss an item of juicy celebrity gossip, or the opportunity to pick up a good joke to share over dinner. On the other hand, we might give ourselves the chance to reconnect with real life in very rewarding ways.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping,”, undated
Image by Greg Scales/CC BY 2.0

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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