Many of us love the holiday season, but for others, the light and joy is overshadowed by stress and anxiety. Trying to juggle work, buying presents, decorating, and preparing to host guests can make us lose sight of what makes the season so magical. In the spirit of giving, we've compiled some holiday stress tips to help you maintain your health and your sanity.
1. Set Plans and Expectations Ahead of Time
You might have monetary or time constraints that weren't present last year and have changed what you can reasonably expect from yourself. Take stock of what you're capable of at the beginning of the season, and try to identify the most important holiday tasks. This may include limiting your activities so you're not using up all of your mental energy and can enjoy some holiday cheer.
Be up front with your loved ones about what you can and can't do. Allow yourself to say no to any favors or invitations that you don't have time or energy for. If you have children of an appropriate age, you can use this opportunity to teach them about responsible spending.
2. Eat Healthy, but Don't Stress About It
Stress has a nasty side effect of wearing down our ability to maintain moderation. With all the tempting treats that appear around the holidays, it can be hard to keep from gorging on unhealthy foods. At the other extreme, you may find you sabotage yourself by setting unrealistic expectations about your diet, and that rigid all-or-nothing mindset can set you up for failure.
Allow yourself to be flexible with food, recognizing that one moment of weakness isn't the end of the world. You can also:
- Make small, healthy food choices that can boost your self-esteem: Go in for a salad rather than a second helping of mashed potatoes.
- Enjoy your favorite treats, but do so in moderation -- they'll seem all the more special.
- Focus on foods that are seasonal rather than something you can have any time of the year.
- Practice mindful eating: Eat slowly, and consider the scents, flavors, and textures of the treats you enjoy.
If you overindulge, don't waste time feeling guilty -- tomorrow is another day.
3. Get Some Exercise
One great holiday stress tip is to find time to exercise. Staying active can reduce the health impacts that stress causes on the mind and body. It's no wonder exercise is among the most commonly recommended stress-combatting tips that health care providers give: It provides an outlet for built-up irritation, aids in overall fitness, and improves your mood.
You don't necessarily have to go to the gym to get the benefits of a workout. Taking a walk out in the fresh air, enjoying an outdoor activity, or engaging in winter sports can reduce your anxieties and make you feel better.
4. Stay Social
With so much to do, it can be hard to pencil in some time with your favorite people, but maintaining close connections is imperative to dealing with stress. Meeting with friends or close family members can allow you to vent, take your mind off your worries, and find comfort.
If time is short, make plans to go gift-shopping with your friends, or help each other clean and decorate your homes. By getting creative with your plans, you can tick items off your to-do list while getting some much-needed socialization.
5. Make Room for Quiet Time
Often, we get so caught up in the panic of trying to get everything done on time that we forget to take a moment for ourselves. Make some time for yourself to catch up mentally, preferably in a quiet place where the noise and bustle of holiday activities can't encroach. You can also try deep breathing, a meditative practice that can help reduce stress and manage anxiety.
6. Be Present and Have Fun
Last but not least, give yourself a chance to enjoy the true nature of the season. Take the time to appreciate and reflect on the parts of the holiday that you treasure; it'll be a great reminder of why all the hard work is worth it.
These holiday stress tips might not make your to-do list any shorter -- but they can help you get things done more joyfully, be kinder to yourself, and have a little fun while you're at it.