It's the most wonderful time of the year...right?!? Yes...but I have no problem admitting I've already found myself becoming a little overwhelmed. Can anyone else relate? As we are already into December...there's the daily countdown to Christmas, holiday social obligations have begun, shopping (need I even say the word budget without cringing) continuing family "traditions, overindulging in AMAZING meals....(I think we should just live in leggings from now through February, right?) Let's face it...this time of year can also be stressful. The good news is that sneaking some stress relief into your busy schedule can be easier than you thought. Here are a few ways you can approach it. I've already started doing these and feel much more at ease and hope you can too.
Get plenty of sleep.
It may be tempting to stay up late and watch your favorite show but in the morning it will be well worth it. How much sleep we need depends on the individual’s age. It is crazy to think as adults need 7 – 9 hours of sleep per recent sleep studies. I'd be surprised if any of us got that on a routine basis....if you do then kuddos to you! For the rest of us...aim to get close to the amount of sleep necessary and track your stress levels and overall mood after a week.
Stay away from unhealthy habits.
The cycle is self-perpetuating: a sedentary routine, an unhealthy eating habits can all contribute to increased stress levels. They also interfere with sleep patterns and lead to increased tension rather than reduced levels. Not sleeping enough and having an extra shot or two of espresso in your coffee the next day won't work either-this I've learned from experience. Break the cycle...you and your loved ones will be grateful.
Continue your well-balanced diet and avoid too much food and too many sweets. This isn't the time to try and implement a diet...wait till January. In all seriousness though, simply practice moderation and make sure to get your eight 8 oz of water and daily fruits/veggies and healthy, routine meals.
Spend less and relax more.
The holidays aren’t meant for you to work more and spend more. Instead, spend quality time with family and friends, have fun making “do it yourself” projects for gifts and cherish the moments leading up to the actual holiday. "Keeping up with the Jones" is never a good thing and your family won't remember what was under the tree, rather they will remember the laughter, hugs and memories leading up to and during the holidays.
Giving back to your community is the most rewarding things you can do during the holiday season. No matter how big or small, helping others less fortunate or putting a smile on someones face is more meaningful than anything money can buy. Volunteer your time at a local shelter, school, church or hospital and spread a little love and joy.
Get some exercise.
Sometimes, the last thing you want to do after days of family and friend gatherings filled with rich foods is hit the gym. But it’s a great way to both stay in shape and manage your stress during the holidays. Travel can complicate things, but as a runner, I always make sure to throw my running shoes and some workout clothes in my bag so I can sneak in a workout anywhere. If you’re more of an indoor workout person, ask your gym if they have reciprocal membership programs in the area you’re visiting.
If you’re feeling a little overstimulated by the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, you may want to pull on your winter coat and head outside. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can reduce your cortisol — otherwise known as the stress hormone — levels. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of spending time outside, you can reap some of the benefits. Just looking at photos of nature has been found to have some benefits.
Take some time for yourself — and don’t be afraid to say no.
The holidays are all about being with loved ones, so it can be easy to overlook yourself in all the hustle and bustle. If you’re feeling stressed, don’t be afraid to call a timeout and spend some time on self care. Maybe your self care is taking a bubble bath, scheduling a massage, or going for a run — whatever it is, enjoy the moment and let yourself feel refreshed.
It's okay to ask for help.
We all need a little help sometimes, and the holidays are a time for lending a hand. If you’re experiencing financial hardships, there are a number of organizations (like Toys for Tots or the Salvation Army) that can make sure you’re able to have a happy holiday. You can also take a creative approach — get your friends and family together for an activity or volunteer event in lieu of exchanging gifts.
Instead of getting caught up in everything you need to check off your list, take a few moments to focus on what you’re doing right now. Be present in the moment. Be grateful for what you have and enjoy the little things. Happy Holidays.