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While ‘tis the season to be merry, for many of us, it’s also a season for stress, depression, anxiety, and angst, which can lead us to behave in ways we’re sure to regret later. During the holiday season, people often resort to bad habits–they may cave into sugar cravings, go for the booze and overdose on caffeine.
That’s because, during the holidays, people tend to experience heightened emotions. Some may feel overcome by loneliness, become annoyed by relatives or lost patience with your loved ones.
In fact, the American Psychological Association (APA) found that nearly half of all women in the United States experience heightened stress during the holidays, which puts their health at risk. The APA also learned that during this time, 41 percent of women use food and 28 percent use alcohol.
To help you have a happy season, here are some tips to relieve holiday stress.
1. Go For Real Foods: Inevitably, at this time of year, you’ll be tempted with sugary, empty-calorie “treats” just about wherever you go. But to be your most energetic, focused and happy self, it’s best to eat foods that grow on trees or on the ground (vegetables and fruits) and to choose healthy fats (such as olive oil and flax seeds), lean protein ( such as fish and organic chicken) and legumes, nuts, and seeds.
2. Take a Calm Break: Right after you are awake, close your eyes, take several deep breaths and meditate or just relax. Imagine yourself in a beautiful place, think of a happy memory or visualize yourself succeeding at a cherished goal. In addition, whenever you get stressed out, anxious or feel overwhelmed during the day, take a quick relaxation breaks of 1 to 15 minutes to calm yourself down. Conscious, slow breathing can help you when you’re feeling frustrated waiting in line at the supermarket, post office or drug store.
3. Prepare “To Do For Me” and “Need to Do For You” lists: Writing down all that you have to do during the holidays will help you realize how do-able your tasks are. Be realistic as to what you put on your lists. Then start tackling one item from each list in turn. For example, after buying gifts for your mom or significant other, take time to work out, too. By alternating between lists, you won’t feel deprived, because you’re being good to yourself.
4. Get Moving: One of the best ways to overcome stress during the holidays or any other time is to exercise regularly. Research shows that physical activity not only boosts your fitness and energy levels but can also elevate your moods. In addition, exercise has been found to reduce anger, tension, fatigue, and confusion. Despite the many demands on your time, this is not the season to stop exercising. Indeed, when regular exercisers are inactive, they begin to feel depressed and fatigued after just one week.
4. Be Generous: One of the best ways to stay calm, content and cheerful this time of year is to act generously with your loved ones, co-workers, and friends. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money. You can be generous with your compliments, You can be generously offered to do a loved ones dreaded errand. You can generously write a fun, short poem. When you are creative with your gifts and thank you’s, people will appreciate your real, heartfelt sentiments.
5. Hike Your Mood With Sunlight: It stimulates the production of good serotonin and also help relieve seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which impact millions of American every year, says Judith Orloff, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Lost Angeles.
To ease SAD symptoms spend time outdoors or near a window on sunny days, or ask your doctor about phototherapy (a treatment using a box that emits full-spectrum light).
6. Get A Good Night’s Rest: Sleep is a necessary human function–it allows our brains to recharge and our bodies to rest. When we do not sleep long or well enough, our bodies do not get the full benefits of sleep, such as muscle repair and memory consolidation. Sleep is so crucial that even slight sleep deprivation or poor sleep can affect memory, judgment, and mood. Research has shown that most Americans would be happier, healthier and safer if they were to sleep an extra 60 to 90 minutes per night.
7. Don’t Neglect Whatever Cracks You Up: Laughing like crazy reduces stress hormones. That, in turn, helps immune cells function better, says psychologist Steve Wilson, Found of the World Laughter Tour, an organization that offers therapeutic-laughter training.
8. Forget Perfection: Stop obsessing overdoing it all. The world is not going to end if the house is a little cluttered or dinner is on the table a few minutes late. “ Focus your energy on enjoying the people in your life,” says Donna Schempp, the program director for the Family Caregiver Alliance. Don’t sweat the small stuff and your holiday will be much more enjoyable.
9. Think Positive: The holidays may drive you to your breaking point, but don’t focus on the bad. Negative thinking can trigger the body’s stress response, just as a real threat does. Remember, it’s time to celebrate with your family and friends. An optimistic outlook will help you cope with challenges that come your way.
May the holidays bring you all the love and joy they can, and may the true meaning of the season touch your heart.