Practical Tips For Reducing Stress During The Holidays
By Patty Burke, Health & Life Coach, Owner Whole Health
The holidays are creeping up, the weather is changing rapidly, and the new year is just around the corner! It’s understandable that between the sugary treats, Netflix binges (because it’s too cold to get outside), holiday parties, frenzied shopping, and the amount of traveling you may be doing, you might be feeling anxious and moody.
It’s not uncommon for stress to keep us from enjoying the holidays as much as we like. You might be stressing about:
Difficult family relationships
A desire for everything to be “perfect”
Fear of another year coming to a close
If this is you, just remember that you are not alone. But what can you do to find more peace and joy this holiday season?
Sure-Fire Formula to Reduce Stress = Self Awareness + Self Care/Me Time + Consistent Healthy Habits + Avoiding Sabotage + Accountability
In addition to the holiday season, we are all vulnerable to the impacts of stress. As many know, stress is one of the leading causes of preventable diseases like heart, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. In order to reduce stress, we need to recognize when and why it’s happening.
So why does a stress response occur? A stress response is our brain’s reaction to a situation, affecting our heart rate, moods, organs, and long-term health. Our brain then triggers our nervous system which is made of 2 components: sympathetic and parasympathetic.
Sympathetic: stress response, cortisol increase (stress hormone)
Parasympathetic: rest & digest response, serotonin increases (happy hormone)
To live a calmer life, our goal is to induce the parasympathetic as often as possible. It’s not always easy, but with intention and practice, it truly is possible to change your brain chemistry, your behaviors, and your impulses during stressful periods.
Here are some valuable tips:
Set Goals and Intentions
Set your intentions ahead of time, before the holidays, each week, each day. Intentions will keep you in alignment with your health goals.
For example: During the holidays, I want to maintain my weight, stay calm, and enjoy peaceful quality moments with my friends and family – without giving up social events, flavorful food, and productivity.
Each day set your intention for the choices and behaviors you will make in order to stay in line with your goals.
Learn to trust your gut, trust your intuition, and build body awareness. Use all 5 senses to evaluate how you are eating, how your body responds to certain foods and drinks, and when/why the heart rate rises during certain situations. The more we can recognize the problem, the better we can address it in real time and come up with solutions.
For example: Eating too fast and not chewing creates a stress response in the body. Slow down; take 15-20 minutes for meals with no distractions.
Intentional Breathing: it only takes 2 minutes to change the nervous system into parasympathetic. Try a 5-5-7 breath. Breathe in through the nose for 5 seconds, hold for 5, then slowly breathe out of pursed lips for 7 seconds.
Create a list to refer back to of fun and relaxing things you like to do. For instance, massage, manicure, warm bath, meditation, walk in nature, coffee with a friend, puzzles, journaling, hobbies, etc. These activities will induce your happy hormones and counterbalance the stress hormones.
Not processed – as natural to the source as possible
Cook ahead and freeze
Pick out recipes ahead of time for meals and social engagements
Make sure you’re eating your fruits and veggies
Hydrate, approximately 64 oz per day
Get some form of movement every day. At minimum, aim for 20 minutes of fast heart rate exercise.
6-8 hours per night. Power-down hour before bed. Turn off electronics and TV, take a warm bath, light scented candles/oils, read, journal. No caffeine after 4pm.
Avoid Sabotage from Self and Others
Self: Sometimes the story we tell ourselves is very self-defeating – and untrue. These stories stem from old beliefs about yourself and the world around you that once served to keep you safe – and now no longer serve you.
Others: It’s easy to feel pressured by others to eat, drink, and fall off track with your own goals. Just realize that you have power within you – the power of choice. The more self-aware you are in the moment, the better choices you will make for yourself.
Set up weekly check-ins to stay on track: reminders for yourself, an accountability partner, coach, etc.
Do not lose sight of your health, because as your health declines, everything else will not go well! I invite you to keep in mind these key ingredients to nurture your body and spirit during this busy time of year.