The Holidays can truly be the best time of year of one person, yet the worst for another. Time with family and friends, gifts and celebrations bring many people joy and happiness but for some, the holidays can be the loneliest and most dreaded time of the year.
In this week's blog we are going to take a look at how stress can affect your body, mind and behaviour, and our top strategies to manage stress over the holidays. Let's dive in!
Understanding which stressors impact you the most can help you navigate the holidays, prioritize what's important and limit your exposure where possible.
Common holidays stressors:
- Financial obligations
- Lack of time
- Travel expectations
- Participation in social events
- Grief and loss
- Extra Food/alcohol temptations
The American Psychological Association found that 38% of people say their stress increases during the holidays
Effects of stress:
Stress also known as the “silent killer” can play havoc on your body, mind and behavior. It can completely change how we think, feel, and act. Below you will find some of the short term effects of stress, but left long term, stress can have a major impact on your health and wellbeing:
Our Top 5 Strategies to Manage Holiday Stress
With frequent parties and late nights, your regular sleep routine will likely be interrupted. Not only will you be going to bed much later than normal, but chances are you will also have a few drinks in your body. As a result of poor sleep, your mood and ability to tolerate stress could be impacted. Prioritizing sleep over the holidays can have a positive impact on not only how you feel but also the choices you make as a result. To learn more about sleep check out this blog.
- Quicks tips for sleep
- Avoid technology 60 minutes before bed. To be safe, leave your phone in another room
- Take an epsom salt bath or hot shower before bed
- Avoid eating 2-3 hours before bed
- Minimize alcohol consumption
Life rarely goes as we had planned or dreamed of: missed opportunities, plans falling apart or dealing with the daily grind can make life tough. It can be easy to lose sight of what really matters and brings us joy. It can be hard to find the good in every day but there is always something to be grateful for and working on framing our mind in this way will help to overcome the most difficult days. Practice gratitude everyday and you will start shifting to a more positive mindset and outlook.
New to journaling? We highly recommend checking out “The 5 minute journal” It's a great place to start and only requires 5 minutes of your time daily.
3. Movement & Exercise
For many people stress goes up and activity levels go down over the holidays - not ideal. Exercise is without a doubt the most underutilized tool for stress relief. Exercise not only reduces levels of our stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) but it also stimulates the production of endorphins which makes us feel good, relaxed and optimistic. Added bonus! Exercise has also been shown to improve sleep quality → better sleep → better stress management! It can be difficult to find the motivation to exercise if you're stressed. Start small: do 15-30 minutes of aerobic activity, book into a class, or check our blog “7 Ways to Maximize a Short Workout”. Bottom line, start moving and get those feel good endorphins flowing!
4. Meditation & Relaxation Techniques
During times of stress,for many people, important aspects of self-care are neglected. Prioritizing meditation, belly breathing, yoga or other relaxation techniques (even if it's 5 minutes in your day), can play a major role in your ability to manage stress and shift your mindset over the holidays. If you are new to this, the first place we recommend starting is belly breathing. During times of stress and anxiety focusing on belly breathing can help you relax, gain control of emotions and lower your heart rate. Next, add a short guided meditation daily. There are plenty of apps out there to help; Headspace and Calm are two great ones to start with. The benefits of meditation are endless. Start today if it's not part of your daily flow. Meditation improves self awareness and emotional health, reduces stress, lengthens attention span.
5. Set Limitations & Boundaries to Reduce Trigger Exposure
A difficult part of the holidays for many people can be simply saying “No!” It's a time of the year where spending goes through the roof between gifts, nights out and travel. Take time to set spending budgets for yourself and if scenarios are outside your means say “No” and don't do it! Remember, your friends and family should never want or expect you to get in over your head in debt. Setting boundaries also goes for food and alcohol consumption, social gatherings and time spent with people. If you know specific situations are going to increase your stress to a level you are uncomfortable with, set boundaries and reduce your exposure to a level that works for you!
Implementing the steps above daily will not only help you navigate the holiday season but by prioritizing daily habits such as exercise, sleep and gratitude you will have a positive mindset/outlook. This will make setting boundaries easier and prioritizing your time easier too.
**Remember, always seek professional help when you feel that’s the best action for you**
What are your top stress management strategies during the holidays? Comment below, and share this with someone you know experiences holiday stress.