The holiday season is supposed to be merry, but for many of us, it’s a season of anxiety and stress. Not only can all that stress and anxiety ruin your holiday season, but it can also lead to bad decisions that you’ll pay for later, like giving in to junk food cravings, overindulging in alcohol, or going into debt buying gifts.
Holiday stress and anxiety are usually caused by the emotional highs and lows of the season. Some people are lonely this time of year, while others quickly become annoyed my too many meddling relatives. Money is also a leading factor as you try to buy gifts for loved ones without maxing out all of your credit cards.
The American Psychological Association reports that nearly 50% of women deal with increased stress around the holidays, which can have a detrimental effect on their health. Not only that, but 41% of women also use food and 28% use alcohol as their coping mechanism.
And, that’s why self-care is critically important throughout the holiday season. Without it, all of that anxiety and stress could trigger binge eating, arguments with family members, insomnia issues, and overloading on alcohol as a coping mechanism.
Sure, you may still have those days where you eat too many cookies and chips or get a little grumpy with your loved ones, but these tips will help to make sure you don’t take it to unhealthy extremes. Here are seven things you can do to fight holiday stress so that you can actually enjoy the season.
Take Mini-Breaks Throughout the Day
There’s no rule that says you have to be going every minute, all day long. Learn to take mini destressing breaks throughout your day.
For example, shortly after you wake up in the morning, take a few moments to just sit back, close your eyes and meditate or do some deep breathing exercises. You could think of a happy memory or imagine yourself in a beautiful place.
The point is to quiet your mind down as the day begins, which sets the pace for the rest of the day. As you go through the rest of your day, repeat the process whenever you notice that you’re feeling stressed out or overwhelmed.
You can take mini-destressing breaks almost anywhere. For example, practice taking slow, deep, calming breaths when you’re waiting in that aggravating line at the post office or grocery store.
Don’t Sweat the Little Things
People tend to get carried away this time of year, which can be hard to handle when you’re already stressed. You can’t control the actions of others, but what you can do is consider their motivations and try not to let the little things bother you.
For example, when Aunt Betty is driving you crazy trying to get you to eat another piece of pie, or your co-worker tries to push another drink on you at the company Christmas party, don’t let it bother you. Simply take a deep breath, step into their shoes, and realize that Aunt Betty loves you and your co-worker is just trying to have a good time.
You will feel so much better if you thank them graciously instead of responding with annoyance. You don’t have to eat the pie or drink the drink, just say thank you and move on.
Exercise is Your Friend
Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress, no matter what time of year it is. Not only does regular exercise increase your energy levels and boost your overall health, but it also releases endorphins, which can elevate your mood.
No matter how busy you get during the holidays, make time for exercise at least three times a week, and more often if you can manage it.
Pay Attention to Your Diet
Sugary treats are everywhere this time of year and it’s almost impossible to get away from them. But, keep in mind that you will be your most energetic and happy self if you stick to eating a healthy diet. Consume mostly fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins to help your body cope with the extra demands of the season.
Comfort Foods Are Ok in Moderation
Everybody wants to enjoy their favorite holiday foods and beverages this time of year, and that’s ok, as you balance it out with a healthy meal and practice moderation.
Limit yourself to one small piece of pie after a special dinner or have just one cocktail at a party. Remind yourself that consuming excess alcohol, sugar, and carbs is only going to make you feel tired and unwell later.
Prioritize Your Holiday To-Do List
Writing down all the things you want to get done over the holidays is a great way to get organized. But, don’t just right down the things you need to do for others, be sure to prioritize the things you need to do for yourself, as well.
For example, after you finish your shopping for mom or your partner, make an appointment for an acupuncture treatment to fight stress and keep your immune system strong. After you finish your holiday baking, head outdoors for a walk in the fresh air. Crazy day at work? Take a time out for a bubble bath and a cup of tea.
When you take time to do things for yourself, you will have more energy to give to others without feeling overwhelmed. By prioritizing self-care, you won’t feel deprived, which leaves you more available to your loved ones without a feeling of resentment.
Don’t Forget What the Season is All About
The holiday season is all about generosity and giving. Keeping that in mind will help you act generously with those around you. Giving to others is a great way to feel cheerful and content this time of year.
That doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy a bunch of expensive gifts, though. Be generous with your words and compliments. Offer someone a helping hand when they’re feeling stressed. Bring your coworker a cup of coffee or take some cookies to your elderly neighbor.
These are the kinds of heartfelt things people will really appreciate, and it will just make you feel good. There’s no better way to fight stress than that!
As the holiday season gets into full swing with Thanksgiving right around the corner, keep these tips in mind. The holiday season should be a time of joy, not of stress. These actionable strategies will help you stay in the right frame of mind so you can enjoy the holiday season.