To better manage stress during the holiday season, the Mayo Clinic (2018) recommends we “take control of the holidays”. This ranges from following tips for managing stress to creating our own personal holiday stress change plan. We will help you with both!
5 Important Holiday Stress Tips for Body and Mind: Stick with Healthy Habits
- Moderation: Eating and drinking too much at the holidays may seem fun at the time and stress relieving, but it actually only increases it with feelings of guilt and the stressors unhealthy food choices and too much alcohol can put on your body afterward. When going to holiday events, it’s often recommended to have a healthy snack prior to assist with this.
- Physical Activity: Maintain your regular exercise routine. Make workouts a priority. If you need to skip a workout, plan a time to reschedule it or find alternate ways to be active.
- Sleep: Don’t short yourself on sleep. Try to make sure you are getting the recommended amount of sleep each night.
- Say "No": It’s ok to not do everything everyone expects of you over the holiday season. Put events and “to-do” items on your calendar. Tell your friends, family, and co-workers that you need to check your calendar before you respond. Then before you say “Yes”, look at your calendar to see if this is something you can realistically fit in.
- Acknowledge your feelings: If you’re feeling down or overwhelmed, recognize that these feelings are normal during the holidays. These feelings may manifest themselves in vague physical complaints, problems with sleep, irritability, and difficulty completing normal chores. Take the time to express your feelings and if these feelings persist despite your best efforts, talk to you doctor. Your doctor along with other team members including a behavioral health consultant, now in many Community Care Physicians' offices, can help you work through this. Acknowledging is always better than trying to ignore!
While these tips prove extremely helpful, research recommends taking this a step further by creating your own change plan and identifying where your particular holiday stressors come from. This does not have to be another time consuming task to put on your “to do” list. It can be as simple as following the steps below (and done in as little as fifteen minutes):
- Make a list: Briefly reflect over past holidays and your current situation. Doing this, your holiday stressors will come quickly to mind. For example, are your triggers related to family stress, financial pressure, demands on your time, demands you put on yourself? Does it bother you that most of your healthy habits are hard to keep over the holidays? As you mentally review, list out your stressors.
- Choose one or two: Out of the list you just made, identify one or two stressors that you would like to change, keeping in mind which would make the most impact on reducing your stress.
- Create a plan: Now that you’ve identified what you would like to change, you’re ready to think about what you can do differently this year. For example, if you find yourself stressed about family, think about ways you can set aside differences and lower expectations during the holiday season; you’ll be surprised what a difference this can make. If it’s financial stress, decide how much you can spend and then develop ways to stick to your budget. Write your plan down and stick to it. You may find along the way it needs tweaking, and that’s ok! Keep it somewhere where you see it and review it multiple times a day.
Remember, you may not be able to change things around you, but you can work on changing how you react and respond to them. So, whether you’ve decided to follow the tips and/or create your own plan, don’t wait. You are now ready for change and may be surprised that even the smallest of changes can make a big difference!
Cynthia Stone, DBH