I’ve said it (here) before, and I’ll say it again, managing your stress levels through the holiday season is key to staying healthy this winter.
While the holidays are one of the most magical times of year, it's easy to max out on time spent with loved ones and wind up feeling a great deal of stress during as well. Unfortunately, stress is one of the main culprits of disease. I could easily list all the things that lead to feeling mental and emotional stress, but what's truly important is what you do to manage your stress that really matters.
I find that several big reasons why the holidays are so stressful is because we are doing TOO much, eating and drinking TOO much, and spending TOO much.
Here are my 10 go-to tips to help manage stress throughout the holidays and keep you feeling balanced and healthy.
Take a pause and breath - One of the easiest and most basic things you can do when we start feeling stressed is to take a break. One minute or 20 minutes — it doesn’t matter. Just start. It's essential to find a moment of peace to calm your nervous system. When you're breathing, take a deep breath through the belly and when you exhale, visualize letting go of all the stress. This breathing can be a quick pause while you are at work or lead to a deeper mediation. Either way it will get you more grounded and present in the moment. The holidays tend to fly by with everything packed into a short amount of time, so whenever you want to slow time down take a pause and breath.
Yoga and massage (shameless plug) are other ways to focus on the breath and let go of the stress in your body.
Schedule YOU time – When things get overly busy and overwhelming you need YOU time even more. During the “giving” season of the holidays it’s easy to push your needs aside and forget to make time for yourself. Make sure that you continue to schedule time in your day to take care of YOU. When you write it in your calendar also include a note on why it’s important to you. If you need some ideas of what this may look like for you, I recommend taking out a journal and writing down all the things that bring joy into your life. And then DO MORE OF THOSE THINGS!
Honor you values – Whether your holidays are about spending time with friends and family or upholding tradition, do what feels right for you! This could take multiple forms: time with family, time serving the community, giving and receiving gifts -- whatever it may be, make sure you enjoy the holidays doing what is important to you. If you notice yourself thinking or saying “this is what I should be doing” instead of “this is what I want to do” then maybe you should consider making some changes that honor what your truly value.
Give yourself permission to say NO – Do you feel obligated to say “yes” to every holiday party or event you are invited to? Do you feel guilty if you don’t go? But stressed when you do go because you have to make a trip to the grocery store or buy a gift? First off, ditch the guilt. Then honor yourself by respectfully declining the things that do not serve you and saying "yes" to what does. If it is not something that will be bring you joy this holiday season, then it’s time to start saying "no".
It's likely that the first time you say "no" you will be plagued with guilt (from yourself and maybe others), but those feelings will pass. Remember? I said ditch the guilt. In time you will start to feel happier and more fulfilled when you only say “yes” to the things in your life that you truly want to do. You will also be way less stressed and overwhelmed because you are doing fewer, more meaningful things.
If you're feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the holidays, don't over schedule your time and take on more than you can manage. Remember: It's OK to slow down.
Ask for Help – Asking for help is not a sign of weakness or lack of preparedness. In fact, it’s a great way to involve your loved ones by having them set the table. decorate, clean, or bring a side dish to share. Give yourself permission to ask for help and delegate responsibilities. People love to give this time of year so take full advantage of this. Remember, you don’t have to be it all or do it all.
Get Creative - Shopping at local small businesses, giving experiences or making your own gifts can all be a way to cut down on the stress of holiday shopping. You won’t just be avoiding the overwhelming crowds at malls and supporting the local community, but you will also be giving one-of-a-kind gifts that are more meaningful.
Stick to your normal healthy routine – It’s easier to stay the course than to stray from your routine. The holidays can be an excellent justification to eat foods that you wouldn’t normally eat, indulge a bit more, or skip out on your workout class. This can often times start with Halloween, then Thanksgiving, don’t forget about Friendsgiving, your holiday work party, Christmas with both sides of the family and then ending with a bang on News Year Eve — you can almost see your healthy habits slipping away. Then comes January 1 and you’re ready to get back on track, but getting back on track is so much harder now because your body is craving all that sugar and alcohol it’s grown accustomed to. Good news is I’m here to support you if you feel you’ve strayed too far from the course and can’t find your way back. I can help you create healthy morning or evening routines or provide you the accountability you need to get back on track. Set up a complimentary exploratory session here.
Focus on Gratitude – If you focus on negative thoughts or dread how stressful the holidays can be, than your only going to create more holiday stress. Yes, the holidays can be stressful, but only if you allow it to be. If you think positive and focus on all the things you are grateful for during the holidays then you will create more positive things. This goes for anytime in your life. What you think about, you bring about. When you create more stress in your life with negative thoughts, you also create more stress in your body that can often lead to tension and physical pain. Bonus tip: Each day journal about what you are grateful for. First write down 3 things that you are grateful for in your life and then write 3 things that you don’t have in your life yet, but are grateful for as if they are already in your life.
Check in With Yourself — Recognize your limitations. As a BodyMind Coach I often ask my clients to check in with yourself frequently and ask yourself how you are feeling. Some questions that you can ask yourself are: Does it feel like my chest is heavy and it’s hard to take a deep breath or do I feel light and balanced? Am I doing too much? If yes, what can I say no to or cut out? Can I handle adding something else to my plate? If yes, does it bring me joy? Does it feel right? Does it feel light or heavy? Your body has the answers if you take the time to listen to it.
Be kind to yourself — When there is already a lot on your To-Do list and the list keeps growing longer, you often end up feeling defeated if you can’t manage to get to everything. Remind yourself that you are human. Not to mention, most of the time no one else will even notice. Do your best on what you can accomplish and let go of the need for everything to be perfect. There is no such thing as perfect, so be gentle on yourself.
I recognize that the holidays also bring about other emotions for some people, be it sadness or grief if they’ve experienced loss or are unable to spend time with loved ones over the holidays. If you are experiencing these feelings I encourage you to take time to acknowledge these feelings and allow yourself to say, do, and feel the things that best serve you. Be kind to yourself and others.