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Public Affairs


Stressed by the holidays? Relax and enjoy

December 19, 2003

Image of a Christmas tree and traditional holiday meal, including turkeyThere is shopping to finish, holiday cards to address, cookies to bake, presents to wrap and the house may need the Martha Stewart touch.

It seems every day brings a Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah celebration -- and then there are New Year's Eve parties. With so much to do, and so many places to be, it's tough for harried folks to get into the holiday spirit.

Slow down, take deep breaths and allow yourself to take a different approach to this holiday season, says Beth Kelley, an SFSU kinesiology faculty member who specializes in exercise physiology and stress management. She also directs FitnessPlus, the University’s employee wellness program.

"With the holidays many people experience difficulty keeping with their exercise programs and staying healthy," says Kelley, known for her enthusiasm in teaching others how to live healthier and more positive lives. With the busyness of the season, our self-care usually gets stored in the back of our minds."

She offers some tried and true tips to make it through the final weeks of December.


• Does buying presents fatigue the pocketbook as well as the mind? Then don't. Talk with family members and friends about not purchasing gifts. Instead, spend quality time together by playing board games or just talking. "Give the gift of space and time with people," Kelley says. Or simply exchange cards with heartfelt messages.
• Greeting cards: nothing wrong with sending cards in January when people have time to actually read them.
• Too tired to make cookies for the holiday party? Don't force yourself. Come up with healthier and easier alternatives such as cut up vegetables or fruit.

Health and Wellness

• When at parties take small tastes of whatever food you want. Don't declare any foods "off-limits," but don't overindulge on the first pass by the buffet table. You can always go back for more if you're still hungry.
• Drink plenty of water -- an excellent way to fill up.
• Keep exercise in your routine regardless of a busy schedule. It may be a quick walk around the block, two dozen sit-ups during a commercial break from a favorite holiday television program, or anything in conjunction with what you're already doing. "Keep the exercise simple, easy, fun and effective," Kelley adds.
• Exercising major muscles (legs, arms, back and chest) reduces tension, increases strength, decreases chronic aches and pains, and provides a source of relaxation.

Mental breaksImage of a fern branch and pinecomb

• So often we rush through our days, multitasking and thinking about what needs to be done next while still completing a chore. Stop. While at the shopping mall, make a conscious effort to smile at another person, look someone in the eyes or even wink at a stranger. Making a human connection with someone else -- if only for a second -- allows us to slow down our active minds.
• Don't turn on the car radio. Let silence fill the air. Think about a vacation that offers complete relaxation.
• Power naps -- 20 minutes is all you need in the afternoon to feel refreshed


• Evaluate the past year. In what areas of your life did you grown (mentally, spiritually and emotionally) and what did you contribute to the world? Determine what you want for the coming year.
• Think about resolutions before New Year's Eve and don't simply make a goal. Come up with a plan on how to achieve your objective.

-- Christina Holmes


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Last modified December 19, 2003, by the Office of Public Affairs