Stress-Busters for Surviving the Holiday Season

The holidays can be an exciting time filled with fun, family, and friends, but for many, it can also be stressful. Some common signs of stress include muscle tension, racing heart, trouble sleeping, headaches, irritation, and trouble concentrating. So what can you do if you’re feeling stressed during the holidays (or any other time of the year)? Here are some tips to keep your days merry and bright:

  • Be Mindful: Pay attention to how you’re feeling. Sometimes we ignore our stress until it overwhelms us. Instead, notice when you’re feeling stressed and try to manage it earlier.
  • Exercise: If you already have a physical fitness routine, stick to it, and if not, it’s never too late to start! Try going for walks or participating in other physical activities you enjoy (remember: always consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine).
  • Eat Smart: Try to eat a well-balanced diet and avoid skipping meals. Avoid using alcohol and/or other drugs to reduce your stress.
  • Sleep: Try to maintain a consistent sleep routine. Try to avoid sleeping too much or too little.
  • Relax: Practice deep-breathing and relaxation techniques to help manage your stress. Start by deeply inhaling for three seconds and then completely exhaling for three seconds. To relax your muscles, continue your deep breathing; then, start at the top of your head and work your way down to your toes, picturing the tension slowly leaving each section of your body. Repeat these steps until you feel less tense and more relaxed.
  • Set Priorities and Plan Ahead: It’s impossible to do everything and be everywhere, so decide which obligations are the most important and plan for those. Set realistic expectations for what you can do and leave yourself ample time to accomplish tasks and meet your holiday goals.
  • Seek Support: Sometimes talking about your feelings can help relieve some of the pressure and make things feel more manageable. Seek out a trusted friend or family member, or consult with a trained counselor (he or she may be able to help you figure out how best to manage your specific stressors).
  • Have Fun: Make time for fun activities – participate in your favorite hobbies or get involved with local community groups.
  • Take a Break: Take a time-out if you start to feel overwhelmed, and recharge by doing a different activity or taking a deep breath. Come back to the original task once you’ve had a moment to regroup.


Shelby Bohn is the Customer Experience Director at ImagineCare. She began her career in the field of psychology and earned an MA in Clinical Psychology in 2010. Prior to ImagineCare, she worked as a mental health counselor, and later in customer relations in the hospitality industry. Shelby is trying to take her own advice and set priorities this holiday season!

The Hidden Benefits of Gardening in the Fall

fall garden.jpg

We all think about our gardens in the spring and summer, but we also need to be thinking about our gardens in the fall.

Just imagine the cool, crisp air and the smells of the leaves and soil. Autumn is the perfect time to prepare for next spring. The efforts we put forth right now will help us to reap the bounty of next summer’s vegetable garden, as well as the bouquets for our tables in June.

And the garden landscape we leave in the fall can create visions of beauty in the darkest months of winter, when we are nestled in our homes drinking cocoa and dreaming again of the long, warm days of summer.

So here are a few hints to getting the most benefits out of your late-season gardening efforts:

  • Take a minute before you start your fall cleanup to consider what you would love to see come up in the spring, set it to paper, and if needed, read a bit about any new plants or bulbs you would like to incorporate into your garden. A little research can go a long way toward providing a glorious spring show. A great resource are various garden catalogues that begin to arrive in your mail in the middle of winter, or you can check out websites for vendors such as White Flower Farm, Burpee seed, Seeds of Change, and Fedco, to name a few.
  • Consider your soil. Do you need to augment with any organics this fall to help support the healthy growth of your plants in the spring? Local community extension services can be a great resource for soil enrichment advice, and often provide soil testing kits. What you don’t want is to invest in a fertilizer in the fall only to learn that it should not have been applied until the spring!
  • Prune plants back in the fall to prepare the vegetation to be most prolific come spring. Again, a little research from a trusted source—such as PBS Victory Garden or the National Gardening Association—can spare you from over-pruning and risking removal of the future buds you will be looking forward to. Additionally, through pruning and removal of stems and branches in the fall, you also remove the risk of nasty critters that like to winter over in the garden and create problems for your future plants.
  • But in your eagerness to freshen your garden, be mindful that some plants are best left alone until late winter or early spring. The winter landscape can attract birds and small animals when plants that remain viable through the cold months remain in the garden until early spring. Cone flower, for instance, is a great source of nutrition for the chickadees that remain in New England during the winter months.
  • And another benefit to gardening, any time of year, is your health! Gardening happens to be great exercise, an activity in which we stretch and bend and push and pull throughout the full gardening experience. Before, and even after, you enter the garden, it can be very helpful to do a few stretches, in an effort to minimize any aches that may come as a result of all that contorting you’ll be doing!
                                             CONE FLOWER

                                             CONE FLOWER

Whether you practice it independently or in a community setting, the simple act of gardening can foster a positive mental outlook and increased life satisfaction. Tending a garden can lead to a greater sense of peace in a hectic world. Whether you are creating a half acre of vegetables or simply growing a tomato plant in a pot, you are in touch with your ability to nurture something. So what are you waiting for? Go out and dig some dirt.


Beth Whipple, RN-BC, is a lover of movies, gardening (obviously), photographing flowers, birdwatching, and longboarding. She's always up for a laugh and has a soft spot for chicken piccata.