Ah, the holidays…filled with family, joy, travel, festivities, and sparkly apparel.  Like the saying goes: it’s the most wonderful time of year… until it’s not.  Sometimes the very things that make the holiday season so wonderful can cause a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety, often to such an extreme, a sense of dread accompanies that Christmas Creep.  Stores begin pushing holiday consumerism earlier and earlier, and the pressure is on.  However, you can put forth some effort to curtail these stressors and put the joy right back into the season where it belongs.

For many people, the holidays entail travel. Whether it’s just over the river and through the woods or distances that require enhanced I.D.s, reservations, tickets, or even passports.  Travel itself verges on traumatic nowadays, from belligerent passengers to unpredictable weather delays, to inexplicable, confounding flight cancellations for indeterminable reasons.  While most of those things are out of one’s personal control, the physical taxation of travel isn’t.  First of all, make your travel arrangements as much in advance as possible; you frankly cannot do this too early.  Then, invest in some accessories that will make the flight itself more comfortable: a light-blocking eye mask, earplugs, and a travel pillow you can prop your head upon to make sleeping in flight as comfortable as possible.  Some people also swear by the sleep-inducing properties of melatonin or even over-the-counter or prescription sleep medications to take pre-flight, so you can use those in-air hours for repose. Still, if that’s too hard-core for you, even a cup of chamomile tea or warm milk can be effective in taking the edge off.

Speaking of which, once you arrive upon your destination, a familiar pillow can be a critical tool to ease falling asleep in a foreign environment, whether it’s at the in-laws or a Holiday Inn.  Along with that, aromatherapy products or a simple scented candle that you also use at home can make strange accommodations feel homier. The more familiar you are with your surroundings, the more easily you will sleep, warding off yet another potential holiday killjoy: the groggy, cranky, sleep-deprived version of yourself.  Making your temporary holiday sleeping quarters as much like the ones at home will make getting those crucial between-party hours of rest easier to attain.

Aside from jet lag and other travel-related sleep impediments, holiday obligations can also conjure up high levels of stress.  If ever there wasn’t one, this is not a good time of year to procrastinate.  Get on your to-do list sooner rather than later.  Checking off all your boxes in advance can provide a great sense of accomplishment and liberation.  It will give you peace of mind to enjoy holiday activities and occasions rather than fret about the gifts you haven’t bought, outfits unplanned, and travel arrangements hanging in limbo.  Another caveat is trying to keep up with the Jones’.  Always remember that nobody posts their fails and foibles on the socials.  Focus on what truly makes you happy and brings you joy, rather than trying to out-jolly your peers.

Speaking of those holiday festivities, take care to rein in excessive food and drink too close to calling it quits for the night.  All those rich treats and alcohol can wreak major havoc on your shut-eye, so try to decrease the indulgences as the night progresses so you’ve properly digested (and maybe sobered up a smidge) before hitting the hay.  Remember there’s probably another party, get-together, or event after the one you are enjoying at that moment, so leave yourself a little leeway to wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for whatever festivities the day after might afford.

Lastly, but perhaps the most serious concern as the calendar turns to winter is the effects of depleted daylight and some people’s sensitivities to the seemingly perpetual darkness.  If you suffer from S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder), all of the above recommendations apply double-fold as you can be more fragile this time of year.  Additionally, it is a great idea to consider a light therapy box.  Sometimes it can appease both S.A.D. symptoms and help get your circadian rhythms back on track.