From decking the halls to scouring the mall, for many people, the holidays are so jam-packed with to-dos, they can leave us feeling more stressed than the big guy in red himself.
While the holidays can be a joyous time of the year, all of those extra festivities can sometimes add up to extra stress. Gift buying and wrapping, hosting and attending parties, and sending out holiday cards are all fun things, but they can also contribute to a sense of holiday burnout.
Suddenly our schedules are jampacked and it feels like we’re caught up in a lot of hustle and bustle instead of simply enjoying the season. Since stress is often to blame for our slim-down slip-ups, and this time of year is teeming with sweet treats just waiting for a moment of weakness, it’s important to find healthy ways to cope when the holiday hoopla becomes too much to handle.
We know that it can all feel a bit overwhelming at times, which is why we’ve rounded up some tips on how to avoid holiday stress. While this is certainly the season of giving, you’ll need some self-care to prevent burning out. Check out these tips for dealing with holiday stress:
1. Find Ways to Stay Active
As our schedules get busier, it can be harder to find time to work out. But it’s important that you find ways to keep “staying active” on your to-do list. Plenty of research has demonstrated how exercise can reduce stress, so now is not the time to stop.
If your evenings are now jam-packed, set the alarm to get in a quick morning work-out. Or maybe you can find a way to go for a walk or hit the gym over your lunch hour.
Even without the rush of the holiday season, we know that it can be challenging to stay motivated during the winter—particularly if you’re someone who likes to exercise outside. But with the right clothing, you can still get your outdoor workouts in on most days.
Take in the beautiful holiday light displays with a night stroll, or get your feel-good hormones flowing by walking while the sun’s still out. This one works wonders not just in terms of holiday stress, but stress in general.
You might also take this time to discover a new indoor workout you have never tried before. Think outside of the box and try something new like boxing or even search the Internet for easy cardio routines. You just may be surprised at what you end up embracing—and how it can be an outlet during stressful days.
2. Be Willing to “Let it Go”
So often the stress that we feel around the holidays is brought on by our own expectations. We want everything to be perfect, so we go out of our way to try and “do it all.” We take on loads of responsibilities that quickly become unmanageable. Whether it’s sending out dozens of holiday cards, standing in long grocery store lines and cooking elaborate meals, or trying to make everything magical by buying all the right gifts. In the process of all that, some of the fun starts to fade.
That’s why we’d encourage you to be willing to let some of those things go!
Rather than cooking a whole multiple course meal from scratch, why not order it from a restaurant? Or, if you can’t get around to taking a family photo for your cards, what’s the harm in skipping a year? So often we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and in the grand scheme of things, it’s not as important as we make it in our minds.
To destress this holiday season, try and accept imperfections knowing that time with family and friends should really trump anything else on the “to-do” list.
On this same point, we also want to encourage you to avoid taking on too many responsibilities at once. You don’t have to do everything yourself. If you know you are already overburdened, embrace the art of saying “No”—or delegate. For instance, take guests up on their offer to bring a dish to your holiday party or tell the school or work committee you’re on that you need help with planning that party. Find ways to make your to-do list more manageable.
3. Take Time to Rest
Make rest, relaxation and sleep a priority. Getting a good night’s sleep can feel elusive during the holidays, but it’s an important way that we can manage our stress better. Of course, a lot of it has to do with the quality of our sleep. A study from the University of California, Berkeley, found that deep sleep is the best way to “reset the anxious brain.”
With deep sleep (non-rapid eye movement sleep), our heart rate and blood pressure lowers.
It’s a bit of a catch-22 because lack of sleep can contribute to more stress—but the more stressed we are, the harder it is to sleep. That’s why finding ways to make sleep a priority is important. Put away your phone and turn off the television. Everyone is different so focus on finding what works to help put you in a state of relaxation. It might be calming music, yoga or even a warm bath.
Prioritizing relaxation and sleep will ultimately pay off by helping you feel more calm and ready to tackle the day—even as it gets busy!
4. Welcome the Warm and Fuzzies
Crank up some relaxing tunes and take a warm bath, or cozy up to a hot cup of tea while wearing your fuzziest PJs.
While you’re at it, you could also treat yourself to to a DIY anti-stress face mask: Puree five mashed mint leaves and one piece of peeled cucumber (deseeded) in a blender. Add one beaten egg white and blend until smooth. Apply to face; leave on for 20 minutes before rinsing.
5. Embrace the Madness
Listen: It’s the holidays. With family and friends coming and going, and party after party needing to be hosted, there’s pretty much no way you’re not going to be at least a little stressed. But the holidays only come once a year, which means in a month, when you’re stuck in the doldrums of winter, you might actually miss all the madness.
So embrace it! Accept that you might be a bit tired or that your house might not fully recover for another week or so. It’s OK. Take in the time you have with loved ones, and worry about the rest later.