By Maria Jauhar, M.D.

The last thing we think of, when we see the bustle of preparations, is the idea that a holiday might be meant for rest and restoration. Yet wisdom traditions around the world and through the ages have seen these short days and long nights as a time for paying attention to what’s inside.

Contemplating the true meanings to be found here calls for at least some moments of tranquility. Yes, rest is an important part of the meaning of “holiday,” and it is still achievable, even amidst the other traditions we have layered on it over the course of many years.

It Starts with the Expectations

Recreating a long-ago memory of childhood or family celebrations is frequently a formula for frustration. Many of us strive in vain to bring back our image of perfection based on times that have changed and circumstances that might be vastly different today.

It’s the spirit of those memorable holidays that we want to experience, not the exact arrangements or circumstances, so give yourself some slack. Creating celebrations that work today is the goal.

Just About Everybody Feels It

Anxiety and stress are so commonplace during the holidays that even the Mayo Clinic published some tips for dealing with it. Just knowing you’re not alone and feeling free to mention your feelings to friends can help. The very groups around which holiday observances are based – religious gatherings, community organizations, and social circles – are places to find a reassuring voice of understanding and encouragement.

Judgment is a good feeling to avoid. Judging ourselves or others harshly for not “living up” to the image we hold of the holidays is a burden we can do without. Often there are relatives and friends we see rarely during the year, or even only at the holidays. Accepting that others are feeling holiday strains based on their own life experiences will help us get along with those friends and relatives we don’t see very often.

Take a Break Now and Then

Even a few minutes away from shopping, cooking, cleaning, and errands can make a difference in how good our holidays feel. Yet time away may be the most often overlooked solution. Whatever quiets your mind and slows your breathing can bring you back refreshed, with your happy outlook restored. For some it’s a massage, a meditation, or an exercise class. For others, just gift-wrapping can be a relaxer, with its manual concentration, repetition, and sense of completion.

A Taste of Routine Can Be Refreshing

Abandoning our normal eating, sleeping, and exercise patterns is a big contributor to holiday stress. Doing our best to stay close to the healthy habits that got us to the holidays is one of the best things we can do to see us through them happily.

Staying in touch with your family physician is one of those practices to hold onto. To schedule an appointment with us at Island Family Medical Center, call 912.897.6832 or use our online appointment request form.