“Stress is not what happens to us. It’s our response to what happens. And response is something we can choose.” – Maureen Killoran
Crowded, noisy stores.
Lines that stretch for what seem like miles.
Lengthy shopping and gift lists.
Back-to-back holiday parties.
The impending arrival of out-of-town guests.
Many people look forward to spending time with family, not working for a few days, or taking a trip somewhere during the holidays. Though the holiday season can be a fun and festive time, it’s easy to see why it can also leave a person feeling stressed, tired, and/or anxious. In fact, many studies and polls have confirmed that adult men and women experience an increase in stress during the holidays. Sometimes, this stress leads a person to make poor decisions regarding their diet, alcohol and caffeine consumption, spending, or sleep patterns, which can ultimately result in feelings of guilt, depression, or anxiety. And the cycle repeats itself.
In this blog, I’ll share tips to help you combat this seasonal stress cycle, leaving you feeling happy, healthy, and invigorated.
Tip #1: Stay Active
In the midst of the hustle bustle of the holidays, exercise might be the last item on your extensive To-Do List. However, research has repeatedly proven that being active is a mood-booster and helps people cope with stress by stimulating endorphin production in the brain. These are the brain chemicals that serve as a natural painkiller, triggering feel-good sensations throughout the body, an elevated mood, and, (surprise!) a reduction of stress and anxiety.
If the weather is nice, spend some time outdoors. Sunlight stimulates serotonin, the “happy” brain neurotransmitter that aids in mood regulation. If you’re indoor-bound, you may have to get creative: work out to an exercise video, build an aerobics circuit throughout your home, ride the stationary bike, or hit the gym. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity at least three times per week. Find an activity that fits you and your lifestyle. For some, this may work better with an exercise partner – someone to hold you accountable by you holding them accountable.
Activities may include walking, jogging, swimming, biking, playing sports, aerobics, hiking, yoga, meditation, etc.
Tip #2: Take a Pass on Perfection
Have you ever been preoccupied with which serving platter to use for the Christmas Day turkey? Or worried yourself sick about things not being ready on time? You’re not alone. But guess what? Chances are your family, friends, and guests won’t even notice…so stop obsessing over all the tiny details. It’s okay if the house is a bit cluttered or if there are a few last-minute things still left to do. Keep in mind that your visitors are there to spend time with you and your loved ones, not to critique your home.
If you feel like you have too much on your plate, delegate tasks to family members or friends who are willing to help out. For example, opt for a potluck-style feast so you aren’t solely responsible for preparing the meal. And remember – know your limitations. You can always say “no” if you aren’t feeling up for something.
Tip #3: Set Aside Time for Yourself
Piggybacking on the previous tip, it’s important to acknowledge and respect your own limitations, which is a form of self-care. If you’re craving some time away from the craziness of it all, find some way to honor this feeling by doing something alone. Perhaps schedule a spa day, meditate for 15 minutes, take a bubble bath, or pick up that novel you’ve been meaning to start reading. No matter what you choose (as long as it’s an activity that you enjoy), you’ll emerge from this sacred downtime feeling refreshed, pampered, and ready to take on the merry madness.
TAKE-AWAY: Remember, it’s extremely challenging to be present, have fun, or engage with others if you aren’t taking care of yourself. Listen to your heart and body, honor your own needs, and savor the opportunities to spend quality time with loved ones. Keep in mind that the holiday chaos is temporary!