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Northfield specialists: Set realistic expectations, care for self to take in holiday joy

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Posted: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 4:15 pm | Updated: 6:09 pm, Tue Dec 11, 2012.

Are you in search of the perfect Norman Rockwell family gathering or do you aspire to serve a Martha Stewart holiday seven-course meal?

Or are you trying to survive the holiday hustle and bustle with the goal of making your loved ones happy?

If one scenario characterizes your mindset, you could use some mind and body strategies.

Simple strategies can help alleviate or reduce holiday stress so you can be ready to embrace the holiday joy.

“Think of Christmas as a time of giving,” said local psychologist Dr. Corey Poerter.

Giving to yourself, that is.

Corey Poerter, a licensed psychologist who treats patients at Allina Clinic in Northfield, specializes in helping those who are challenged with anxiety or suffer from anxiety disorders.

Since holidays can be stressful due to many social and financial factors, Poerter said it is necessary to find balance. More importantly, everyone should set realistic expectations about the holidays.

“We need a lot of extra self-care to find that balance . . . like adequate sleep and hygiene, and making sure to maintain healthy eating habits and exercise,” Corey Poerter said. “I am a firm believer in making sure you get adequate sleep, and that may be an average of six to eight hours of sleep.”

Besides getting enough rest, Corey Poerter said seeking proper nutrition should be a priority. That includes preparing healthy, wholesome meals and snacks.

“I think we really want to promote trying to maintain our weight,” said Courtney Eby, a registered dietician and medical nutrition therapist at Northfield Hospital.

“Listen to your body’s hunger cues and fullness cues,” Eby said. “Try not to eat when you are stressed, and focus on eating when you are truly hungry.”

Also, be careful not to skip meals and maintain structured times to eat, she said. Packing mobile food like sandwiches or fruit that can be easily eaten on the go is a smart idea during the holiday rush.

If you are prepared and you find balance, then it is easier to be truly present. Then you can be ready for celebrations from Christmas Eve through the New Year, Corey Poerter said.

“We may forget about our own self-care because of the holiday expectations, and we are busy taking care of others,” she said.

This is especially true for women, mothers and parents. Even caregivers like fathers who manage childcare and household domestic chores can benefit from the holiday advice.

“Take a look at things you can take off your list, and look at readjusting your expectations and traditions if they are increasing your stress levels,” she said.

Families can sit down and talk about each member’s holiday wishes and expectations.

When it comes to decorating, baking, shopping and meal planning, it is good to divide and delegate duties.

“If the whole family pitches in,” Corey Poerter said each family member will feel more engaged, and ultimately become more close knit as a family.

“So then the stress is not on just one person, and this will increase the cohesiveness of the family unit . . . because everyone is taking part, and parents are teaching those traditions,” Corey Poerter said. “People need to spend the majority of their time with family members who they truly care for and appreciate, and focus on them.”

Family members should sit down and share a holiday memory or best loved gift or toy with different generations. The action of sharing will certainly spark conversation and bring family members closer.

No doubt younger generations enjoy hearing stories from when grandma and grandpa were young children.

But keep in mind, the perfect Norman Rockwell family gathering may not be attainable. Think twice before embarking on constructing a Martha Stewart-inspired gingerbread house.

Corey Poerter added, “Keep in mind how important it is not to set unrealistic expectations that only put more demands on yourself during the holiday season.”

Kara Hildreth can be reached at 507-645-1113.

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