Although the holiday season is illustrated by bright decorations, warm fires, and smiling faces, many experience increased levels of stress during this time. Heightened levels of stress and anxiety cause people to dread the holidays rather than enjoy them. Whether it is the pressure of cooking the perfect Thanksgiving dinner or the growing Christmas shopping list that is giving you headaches, we have a list of tips to help you have a healthy, stress-free holiday season.
– Plan, plan, plan: Tackling holiday shopping and errands can become a hurried and unpleasant experience very quickly. Try to plan shopping trips ahead of time – taking into account traffic, time of day, and locations. Create a budget to avoid overspending and the stress that follows. Compare prices online to make the most of your budget. Start shopping for gifts early so you don’t leave everything to the last minute.
– Seek treatment if you struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – this is a mood disorder subset in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year exhibit depressive symptoms at the same time each year (usually winter). Common symptoms include oversleeping, fatigue, little interest in doing your normal activities, and either overeating or undereating. Regular exercise, balanced eating, quality sleep, hydration, and spending time with loved ones is important!
– Remember the word “no”: Many people have every weekend blocked out during the holidays for parties, trips, and other social gatherings. These overly-packed schedules can lead to increased fatigue, stress, and irritability. Instead of accepting every invitation, only attend the events that you are truly looking forward to or will enjoy. This allows you to embrace all of the fun that the season brings without over-committing yourself. Remember, having some quiet time to relax is important too!
– Allow yourself to indulge: There are some foods and treats that are only available during the holidays, making them that much more enjoyable and desirable. Allowing yourself to enjoy a special treat or meal is not going to ruin your health goals, just remember to practice mindful eating and listen to what your body is telling you. Overeating a special food can lead to unpleasant physical symptoms and keep you from spending quality time with family and friends. Avoid restricting your food intake before special events – eating regular meals and snacks allows you to better communicate with your body and prevent overeating later on. Stay hydrated, and eat a variety of foods from all food groups.
– Hang on to healthy habits: Exercise, hydration, and healthy eating are all important parts of a healthy lifestyle, but they become even more important during the holiday season. If you enjoy exercising outside but the weather has gotten too cold, try yoga or pilates in the comfort of your home or a local studio. Remember to drink water and warm teas to stay hydrated and combat dry skin. Eating regular meals and snacks can help you remain satisfied and prevent overeating at holiday events. Of course, getting enough quality sleep is important as well for hormone regulation, energy levels, and concentration.
– Take time to breathe: It is very easy to forget to care for yourself in the “season of giving”, but not taking the time to “check in” with yourself can cause more stress. Acknowledge your feelings throughout the season and remember that not every moment will be a happy one. Allow yourself to embrace your emotions and work through them. Identify strategies that help you feel calm and relaxed, such as breathing exercises, warm baths, or yoga.