It all begins the day after Halloween. Thanksgiving and holiday paraphernalia appear in every grocery store and mall overnight, and we all have to start mentally preparing for the next two months of celebrations.
The holidays can be a super fun time filled with holiday cheer, but they can also be incredibly stressful. We’re either traveling or have family and friends in town, there are more traffic jams and crazy weather, and we place heightened expectations on ourselves to make things “perfect.”
When a wave of stress comes barreling at you, your body’s response is to go into fight-or-flight mode and the stress hormone cortisol spikes. Take a few deep breaths and close your eyes. Now, think about what you need in the moment to take care of you.
We’ve put together a list of eight things you can do to help reduce your stress during the holidays. We hope these help you as much as they have helped us! Comment below if you have other ways of coping with stress that you want to share with the Collective!
1. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
When there is so much activity, buzz, external expectations, and anxiety-inducing demands, it’s essential to put your mental and physical health first. This enables you to better cope with the constant noise out there.
Like the oxygen mask on an airplane, you have to put it on yourself first before you put it on someone else. Be in the present moment to calm your mind and become centered. Try focusing on what is around you right then and there.
Forest bathing is an incredible way to relieve anxiety and stress. Simply getting into nature without your cell phone for 15 minutes will help you reset. It also improves your immune system and enhances cardiovascular and metabolic health, so you’ll be more prepared to thwart off any sickness that’s going around this time of year.
Practice a little self-care and meditate, get a massage, take a hot bath, or get your hair done. Sometimes a clean shave or hair trim can be just the pick-me-up you needed. Then, tackle your to-do list with a little more pep in your step.
If you need quiet time, do holiday shopping (groceries or gifts) by yourself. You may need a nice brain break to meander down the aisles and check out new products or simply not talk. If you have kids, ask if your partner can watch them while you go out. You’ll be able to take some time for yourself and avoid the anxiety that comes with walking around busy stores with excited children.
2. FIND TIME TO EXERCISE
Exercise has many health benefits that will help you reduce your stress levels and elevate your mood. Increasing your heart rate stimulates the production of endorphins, a brain chemical that can elevate your mood.
Exercise helps your body manage blood sugar and insulin levels so that you won’t get hangry as quickly. It can help improve your sleep; you can fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Good sleep is a critical component of being able to manage anxiety and stress.
Finally, turn on music when you exercise. It can lower your blood pressure and heart rate, as well as lower blood levels of the stress hormone adrenaline. Choose the music that matches your mood, take a deep breath, and start moving.
3. PLAN OUT YOUR SHOPPING AND ERRANDS
Make a list and check it twice. While this may take a little more time upfront, you’ll save a lot of time and stress in the end. Plus, the fewer trips you have to make to the mall or grocery store, the less gas (assuming you have a traditional vehicle) you’ll use, saving you money and GHG emissions.
Use a service like Amazon Prime Fresh or Instacart to have your groceries delivered instead of fighting to get through the grocery aisles. By planning ahead, you can add items to your cart well ahead of checkout time, so you can keep adding things you think of throughout the week. This way, you can save yourself from having to hit the store the day of.
4. STAY HYDRATED
Make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day. It will help your brain function properly and keep your mood elevated. Your brain tissue is 85 percent water, so it’s essential to keep your body hydrated.
Try to limit the amount of caffeine, alcohol, and sugary drinks you consume. Each requires more water to be processed in your body, so if you don’t drink water, it will take that from your bones, muscles, and your brain. Also, drink one glass of water for every alcoholic drink you consume to help avoid a hangover.
5. SET HEALTHY BOUNDARIES
Before you go to a family dinner or work party, identify what your limitations are. Ask yourself what you’re willing to talk about and things you want to keep to yourself, what amount of physical space makes you feel safe, and how much time you’re ready to spend. You’ll feel better when you exercise your right to say “no” when you need to say it, and listen to your instincts.
Family time can be stressful – especially when there is drinking and loosened inhibitions involved. Being prepared ahead of time by mentally setting your boundaries will help you feel less anxiety going into a situation and navigating through it.
There’s always that one person in your family who you disagree with politically or religiously. No matter what their opinions or beliefs are, you can avoid getting into a disagreement with them by merely respecting their right to their own opinion. As much as you may want to give them a piece of your mind, you’ll save your peace of mind if you smile and move onto a different topic. Do this by asking them a question that leads to a new conversation. If they persist, say you don’t want to talk about it or walk away.
6. BE KIND TO YOURSELF
This may be the final item on the list, but it’s the one to keep top of mind at all times. Be kind to yourself. Be understanding of the fact that not everything is going to be perfect. Learn how to say “no” to things that you don’t want to do so you can put yourself and your needs first. Otherwise, if you try to make everyone happy, the only one that will be unhappy at the end of the day is you.
Show yourself kindness by letting others in and ask for help. You’ll make others feel good by asking them to contribute. They’ll feel useful and part of the celebration, and you can lessen the burden on yourself if you’re hosting.
After the holidays are over, show yourself some love and take a rest day. You’ve earned it.