Help for Managing Holiday Stress

Help for Managing Holiday Stress

The holiday season brings a menu of options to consider in a very short time–and also the possibility of real holiday stress. Fun events with family, friends, colleagues; gift giving; charitable donations; volunteering; and holiday foods to cook. The sheer number of things to get done can seem overwhelming, even if you look forward to all of them.image of the words holiday stress on a background of a wooden tale and pine boughs, pinecones, cinnamon and a plain wrapped gift around

Planning for the holidays is a good way to keep your budget and your energy aligned with your resources, but plans have a tendency to get off track. Figuring out what’s most important for you to give your time and energy and setting a serious budget, and sticking to it–are a couple of ways to get you through the season.

And tackling the energy drain of the holidays isn’t simple. According to the American Psychological Association, even happy holidays can cause stress.  A recently released APA Harris Poll says, “While stress appears to be common at this time of year, 43% said that the stress of the holidays interferes with their ability to enjoy them and 36% said the holidays feel like a competition.” Of that stress, 58 percent of respondents cited finances as being a big driver of their anxiety.

Part of that psychological holiday stress impacts the way many folks spend their money. It’s easy to overspend when you think you need to buy another gift or when you receive one unexpectedly from a neighbor or colleague, for example, and feel the need to reciprocate. And emotional stress has many origins. For cultures where holidays other than Christmas are celebrated, stress can come from having your own traditions not reflected as prominently, if at all, in the media or in society.

But even the best holiday strategy can go awry. Deep into the holiday season, you might find you’re pushing the outer limit of your budget (or you’ve reached it). Or your family gets the stomach bug the night before your holiday party is scheduled. Or maybe you just feel sad after a difficult year.

There are many proven methods to relieve holiday stress, but the key to making it all work is prioritizing the time to do what helps. If you can set aside time, even 15 minutes here and there, to reset your mind and take deep breaths to calm your heart rate can help. Be sure to designate longer blocks of time for activities that are meaningful to you. The APA’s Harris Poll suggests taking the time to strengthen relationships and engage in traditions to soothe feelings of stress and anxiety. But a quick hour-long solo escape is what other people need.

And while your budget concerns can’t be negated, there’s still time to rein in extra spending. Any holiday financial missteps also offer an opportunity to look ahead and try to improve. Pablo Oliva, a wealth advisor with Northsight Wealth Management, LLC, says good budgeting is like any habit that takes time to build and refine. Even folks who plan can encounter problems. “Normally, an unexpected bill that comes due or a car repair can throw things off,” he says.

Look ahead to next year and start using some budgeting tools to help you see where you overspent and where you can cut back next year. And don’t be tempted to open up interest-free credit cards, he says. Some may not charge interest for a certain amount of time, but if you haven’t paid it all off by the time the bill comes due, you could be charged interest retroactively.

If the holidays are giving you some feelings of stress overload, take the time to find something that will help you feel better. Whether that’s connecting with people, doing some active self care like mindful meditation, or planning to revisit some favorite traditions, finding ways to take a breath during such busy times will help. And use any pain points in planning or spending as an opportunity to switch things up next year.



A legal disclosure from Northsight for this interview: Investment advisory services are offered through Northsight Wealth Management, LLC (NSMW), a Registered Investment Advisor. Northsight Wealth Management, LLC will only provide investment advisory services in jurisdictions where it is registered as an investment adviser or exempt from registration. Insurance products and services are offered and sold through individually licensed and appointed insurance agents. NSWM does not provide legal or tax advice.

How to Ease the Holidays for Your Medical Staff

How to Ease the Holidays for Your Medical Staff

The holiday mood is all around us, but holidays represent hectic medical facilities times for numerous reasons. Some of them are mainly because the staff is working hard and not being home with their loved ones. The overall atmosphere is not good for the patients either since none of them want to spend the holidays in hospitals. That’s not the kind of care they hoped to get this time of year, and they might lash out at medical staff. But in the spirit of the holiday season, here is an overview of things to improve the morale of medical staff.

How to Boost the Medical Staff Morale During Holidays

I’m a registered nurse behind Medicare Login HQ, a portal dedicated to patients who want to find out how to log into different Medicare providers. Unfortunately, being in a love-hate relationship with administration myself on the one hand and taking care of the patients on the other, I too suffer the same fate as all other medical workers – being understaffed, tired, and spread thin when holidays come around. So here’s a list of things we like to do at our hospital that might ease the burden.

Bust Out the Decorations On Time

There is something about holiday decorations that eases the pain of being away from home. This rings true for the patients and staff alike. And also, there isn’t a bleaker sight than an undecorated space during the holidays. So the first step towards cheering up the collective is decorating the area they spend the most time.

Start decorating on time, ask for help and enjoy the team-building activities like placing mistletoes and trimming trees. Here, deck the halls has a different meaning.

The Spirit of Christmas Playlists

We all know what time of the year it is as soon as we hear the Mariah Carey tunes. Unthroned Queen of Christmas and other carols can be easily played in the background and still add to the overall festive time of the year. If the tunes can’t spread across the hallways due to hospital policy, then keeping them in the staff area will improve everyone’s mood.

Organize an Early Celebration

No matter what department you are in, everyone knows how crazy things get during the holidays. It’s best to plan the gathering early and celebrate before the rush so the staff will be rested and enjoy the party. Hosting a celebration during the holidays is usually bad because overworked staff can’t let loose and truly enjoy socializing.

Pick a date, call the entire staff department, and dedicate the time to non-work related activities.

The Gift of Holiday Spirit

It’s hard to assess people’s financial situation, so mandated gift-giving shouldn’t be a part of your holiday festivities—no need to strain the staff’s budget. Instead, you can go back to the roots of the meaning behind the holidays. For example, you could organize a simple card-giving ceremony and a small potluck party.

That should be enough to stir some pleasant conversation and show appreciation between coworkers. And everybody can taste various dishes and maybe even exchange some recipes.

A multicultural staff brings a lot to the table for a holiday party, just like it’s shown that having a multicultural staff increases the facility’s innovation and care level. Good food, and in the wisdom of Sheldon Cooper, offering a hot beverage might soothe all the worries away. Add to that some desserts, and you will have a room full of relaxed staff in no time.

The Most Important Step – Plan a Holiday Schedule In Advance

There is no such thing as overplanning when it comes to holiday shifts and medical staff schedules. Instead, make contingency plans and contingency plans of contingency plans. There’s a Latin saying, “Malum consilium quod mutari non potest,” – which means: Bad is the plan that cannot change.

Pro tip: plan the shifts well in advance so people can plan their vacation and downtime around them.

Treat Medical Staff with Kindness

Medical staff is the first line of defense. When people are nervous and depressed because they miss quality time with their family, being in a hospital feels like a prison. Some deal with it better than others, and some might lash out at medical staff. The same medical staff that’s already overworked and strained because they, too, are missing their families.

The best advice is: to offer a kind word. No matter how bleak someone might feel, and even if they are lashing out, the best way is to provide a kind word and show that you are there for them. Likewise, enticing medical staff to socialize with patients improves patient care and how your staff feels. After all, we are all just human.

4 Tips to Manage Holiday Stress

4 Tips to Manage Holiday Stress

Nurses live with heightened stress and holiday stress can make things feel much worse. With patients and patient care a top priority, nurses can’t just go through the motions in their jobs without potentially catastrophic consequences.

So how can nurses, who often face both physical and emotional job stressors, manage holiday stress? Finding a way to manage stress will help you feel better and enjoy the season. 

The key is not to think you can eliminate or avoid stress, because that’s just not possible–especially during the holidays. Eliminating stress also isn’t good overall–it’s often something that motivates people to do better. But you can learn ways that help you react to stress so that your body isn’t constantly worn out from the stress response.

What can you do?

Recognize and accept stress

It sounds counterintuitive because we all know when we are stressed. You might notice yourself feeling rushed and grouchy, or you might have physical symptoms like a rapid heartbeat, increased sweating, or a headache. Identifying your stress reaction is part of the solution; accepting the stress is something else. You likely aren’t going to live a stress-free life, so accepting it is a big step. Acknowledge that you’re having a tough time and take extra care to be gentle with your thoughts and actions.

Find what relaxes you

We are all so different, and what helps your colleague relax might not help you relax. Find the activities in which you become so focused that time seems to disappear or activities that make your physical symptoms better. That could be a hobby that absorbs all your attention and, by doing so, gives your worried mind a reprieve. To release the pent-up physical symptoms of holiday stress you might find yoga (gentle or invigorating), meditation, or simply deep breathing helps or that running, boxing, or screaming into a pillow is your thing. As you go through the holiday season, devote time to those activities.

Get your thoughts out

Often holiday stress comes from all the information swirling in your brain. Get those thoughts out and you might even find some needed clarity. If you’re feeling resentful or stressed, write all your thoughts down. Before you begin, commit to writing freely and then letting the thoughts go. You can either store them safely or, better yet, just destroy them. Don’t share them and, whatever you do, don’t send your thoughts to someone you’re upset with. You can also meet with someone you trust to talk about what’s bothering you. A therapist or life coach is often a good resource as they are a neutral party who can offer perspectives you hadn’t considered. If your stress comes from just being too busy, become a committed list maker–whether that’s on paper, on your phone, or even by leaving voicemail messages for yourself. 

Prioritize what’s important to you

This year, try accepting only the invitations to gatherings you really want to go to. If asked to bring food to an event, offer to bring something that you can easily purchase or order or that you especially enjoy making. Buy fewer gifts for people in your life, and plan so you can reduce the amount of wrapping you’ll need to do. Pinpoint something that makes this time of year special for you–whether that’s appreciating the outdoors and the natural beauty around you, visiting friends and family, going to a fair, store, or a show you love, or just having some quiet time alone. It’s okay to recharge yourself, and you’ll find the relaxation carries over for a while.    

Managing the Holidays as a Nurse with Diabetes

Managing the Holidays as a Nurse with Diabetes

November is National Diabetes Month and while many nurses know the exceptional challenges their patients with diabetes face, some know the obstacles personally.

As a nurse with diabetes, taking care of yourself is extremely important. And while managing diabetes is 24/7, the holiday season can be especially difficult. Nurses have seen patients go through all the ups and downs of this disease including trying to keep blood sugar levels within range when faced with holiday dinners and parties. Add some pressure from family and friends (both well-meaning and some that’s just uninformed) to “just try a little” of each and every buffet dish and getting through the holidays while trying to manage a disease that varies based so much on food is exhausting.

Both the American Diabetes Association and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recognize this month with tips and information to keep yourself healthy. But as a nurse, you can share your experiences to help your patients and sometimes even learn from what they say.

The holidays make things difficult. You’ve got additional responsibilities – from cooking to gift buying to volunteering to hosting – and all the changes those new tasks bring about. Staying with your normal routine can help, but that’s not always possible. Planning ahead and developing strategies will help keep you on an even keel.

If you shop for gifts, you often have to manage that with your normal work and family duties. And if your time to get all that done hits during a mealtime, you have to be prepared and think ahead. Are you going to grab something quick, eat at a restaurant, or pack something to bring?< And what about all that holiday food? You probably know what you can and cannot have, but it helps to plan ahead. Think about the coming weeks and what you might consider worth splurging on. Is it your neighbor's cheesecake? Your coworker's lobster bisque? Planning can help you make adjustments around things you don't normally eat. Running around through all those errands, parties, and visits can also cause you to get dehydrated faster than normal, so pack a water bottle or flavored seltzer for the car and make sure you just keep sipping. If work gets crazier, the one thing you can't neglect is your own health. Make sure you stop to check your blood sugar and assess how your body is feeling periodically throughout the day – even on those crazy days. Try to get enough rest, if not enough outright good sleep. Often in short supply, a good night's sleep isn't always going to be possible. Sometimes it's worth it (a special celebration) and sometimes it just can't be avoided (overtime), so making careful calculations to at least get some rest when logging seven or eight hours is not in the cards will help your body stay on track. Lastly, as spirited as they are, the holidays cause extra pressure for most of us and downright sadness and melancholy for some. Try to keep stress at bay by being aware of it and trying out some things you find relaxing when you can. Listen to soothing music or a great podcast during all that driving around from store to store. Catch up on your favorite show while you are marathon cooking. Spend some time outside just to ejoy the sunchine and fresh air. Move as much as you can. When you find some tactics that work to help you control your diabetes during the holidays, keep with them. Not all things work for all people, so if your approach works for your own life, your holiday season will be that much healthier.

Five Words to Transform Your Holiday Season

Five Words to Transform Your Holiday Season

The holiday season is a festive and frantic time for many. With so much that we have to, want to, or just think we should do, those same 24-hour days we normally try to get everything done in seem even shorter.

But this year, you can take a new approach with one question you can ask yourself in so many situations. This holiday season, use these five words – How much do I need? — every day and see the impact they have on saving you time, money, stress, and even a few pounds.

Here are a few ways to get you started with this question.

Manage the Holiday Budget

With your budget, asking “How much do I need?” seems pretty silly. Well, unlimited cash and time would be nice, of course, but the question begs you to reconsider how much you need to spend to feel like you are giving without breaking your own bank or your spirit. Limiting your budget often makes people very creative and that can free them to be more expressive and personal than any expensive gift card they could give. Make gifts like bath bombs or your best chocolate sauce. Sure they take time, but honestly by the time you get to a mall or a store, park, grab a coffee or a dinner, shop, wait in line, and get home, you’ll come out even.

Figure Out Your Holiday Eating Plan

Groaning buffet tables, holiday parties with fantastic food, and cookies that stretch from here to the moon tempt even those with the strongest willpower. Everything is delicious, you’re probably hungry from all the running around, and it makes you feel special to eat something you didn’t have to cook. But if you ask yourself, “How much do I need?” it frees you to enjoy everything in a way that makes you mindful of what you are eating. Do you really need a whole piece of chocolate madness cake or will half a piece satisfy your cravings? Will another plateful of turkey dinner fill your hunger or just stuff your stomach?

Map Out Fitness

How much do I need?” also lets you go easy on yourself sometimes. While it might help you limit your food intake, it also works in reverse, too. Can’t fit in an hour on the treadmill? How much do you need? If any amount of activity is better than nothing (it is) then take a short stroll and feel how refreshed you are. Don’t have the energy to power through a whole yoga class? If you consider how much do you need right now, you might be okay with a few really deep stretches, some relaxing breathing, a handful of push ups and squats, and the reassurance that you will make time tomorrow.

Opting Out Is Not Being Lazy

How can the magic question help here? Well, how much do you need to make your schedule feel full (and you happy) and not crammed (and you crabby)? How many parties and events can you attend without feeling obligated, overtired, and over the whole season? Find your balance so you can go to the events that are especially meaningful, particularly fun, or involve people you love being around. Saying yes to some and no to others can help you figure out what you need to make the holiday magic present in your life and not just another thing to check off the list. If you can say no to an obligation (that awful neighbor’s overdone show of glitz) so that it gives you time to do something that fills your soul (serving dinner at a soup kitchen or visiting an elderly shut in with your kids), then the trade off is worth it.

Don’t Forget Sleep

Of course, we know this holiday season is short and sometimes you sacrifice sleep for fun. That’s fine, if it’s fine for you and your body. But, realistically, how much do you need? Will four days of staying up late take a toll on your mood, your productivity, and your peace of mind? Are you up late catching up on everything that isn’t getting done in the holiday rush? See where you can cut back. Have eggs, toast, and fruit for dinner – the family will adjust. Don’t worry if you only make one batch of your favorite holiday cookies or if you bring the easiest appetizer in the world to your neighbor’s party (for example, a block of cream cheese, a jar of pepper jelly, and crackers). Getting the rest you need makes the whole season brighter.

Is There Too Much or Not Enough Family Togetherness?

Some of the funniest movies are made about unhappy families at holiday time. If your family time looks like that, then it’s worthwhile to ask yourself how much family togetherness do you need? How much is really good for your soul? On the other hand, you might also crave more time with your family to make the holidays seem complete. If you feel you need more time with your family, see how you can make that happen. Even small ways to connect can make you feel closer, more involved, and more in the spirit of the season.

What are other holiday situations where you can use the question “How much do I need?”