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Health & Spirit

Resolve to reduce stress in the year ahead

By Arianna Huffington, Tribune Media Services on

I especially like that last one, since everybody not only likes to congregate in the kitchen but also to feel useful.

Travel is the other huge holiday stressor. Especially because it seems the entire country is also traveling -- and on your plane, to boot. But among the "14 Things Not to Worry About When Traveling" are:

-- Your email inbox.

-- Keeping in touch: Send an old-fashioned postcard or carry a tiny Moleskine notebook around to jot down your thoughts while you're away.

Family can always be a source of stress, but it can be especially hard for those juggling stepchildren and being the newcomer to long-established traditions. Ann Blumenthal Jacobs, author of "Love For Grown-Ups," a guide for women who married late in life, offers the following suggestions:

-- If children are involved in your holiday plans, work that out first.

-- Schedule nothing at all for one day or one weekend over the holidays -- something magical can always happen when you and your family are spontaneous.

-- See people who make you happy.

One element common to many of these lists is my long-term obsession: sleep. We don't get enough of it even in times that aren't particularly stressful, and we're quick to sacrifice it in times that are, even though it's one of the most important tools to combat stress. There are, of course, many obstacles that prevent us from getting the sleep we need, but one that's increasingly troublesome is our growing reliance on gadgets and screens. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that a few hours of light from computer and tablet screens can lower our levels of melatonin, which helps regulate our sleep cycle, by over 20 percent. And yet, according to the National Sleep Foundation, over 90 percent of Americans are staring at a screen of some sort in the hour before going to bed.

The holidays aren't only a time to socialize and entertain and connect. At the end of the holiday season, New Year's, we have a built-in time to reflect and recharge. So this year, add a digital diet to your resolutions. Your mind and body -- as well as your family -- will thank you.

(Arianna Huffington is president and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post Media Group. Her email address is arianna@huffingtonpost.com.)

(c) 2012 Arianna Huffington. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.
 

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