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Holidays off to a harried start? Wellness expert has advice

December 10, 2001

Stress at the holidays? What is there to be stressed about but cookie baking, picture taking, card writing, travel planning, gift wrapping, tree decorating, housecleaning and (deep breath)-overspending.

How do you have yourself a merry little Christmas with all this to deal with? Austin Peay's assistant wellness director Melissa Lyons says it is possible, with a holiday stress management plan. Here are some pointers on constructing one:

Anticipate, plan and pace. Make a list of all activities that are an essential part of your holiday, either because they're inescapable or because they bring you joy. Now, make a copy of the calendar for the month of December. Scribble in special events you don't want to miss. Then plan specific times for other activities on your list--shopping, addressing Christmas cards, tree trimming, etc. "Be sure you include personal rejuvenation time," Lyons says.

Establish a budget. "Identify ahead of time how much you can spend without relying on credit cards or loans," Lyons says. Not enough to cover your "special-people" list? Identify gifts you can give that don't cost money--the gift of your time, a coupon for a massage, etc., says Lyons.

Practice relaxation techniques--regularly. "There are many different relaxation techniques, and their effectiveness varies, depending on the individual. Try deep breathing, progressive relaxation, or using your imagination to picture calming scenes."

Exercise! Some if not a lot, Lyons says. "Even if you can't exercise as much or as often as you usually do, don't scrap all activity. A brisk walk around the block is better than nothing."

Keep everything in perspective. "This is a time for reflection, rejoicing and relaxing with friends and family," Lyons says. "The best thing you can give someone who truly cares about you is yourself. So learn to say 'no' to some events and demands."

Lyons presented her holiday stress management plan at a wellness seminar for faculty and staff on Nov. 29. She has a bachelor's degree in health science from Clemson University and a master's degree in exercise science from Austin Peay.