Ways to stress less during the holidays

You’re in holiday overdrive, baking cookies, running to the mall and rushing back home to arrive before your out-of-town guests. Is the gift you want most for yourself a nap?

That may be just what you need. The holidays are meant to be a season of peace, not pressure. Carving out some downtime—whether it’s to recharge with a nap, take a walk or even play a game with your family—can make your holidays less stressful. And by slowing down, you may even have more energy to host guests and tackle your holiday to-do list.

What else can you do to de-stress this holiday season? Try these tips:

Focus on What Really Matters

Say the word ‘holiday’ and a lot of us imagine picture-perfect celebrations. That fantasy is almost certain to stress you out if you buy into it. It’s okay if this year’s tree is a little lopsided or the cookies get burnt. Instead of focusing on presents and parties, focus on what truly gives the holidays meaning: time spent with family and friends. Make it a tradition to write letters to loved ones as gifts. This practice is both relaxing and rewarding, and can create deeper bonds with your loved ones.

Get Moving

As winter weather sets in and schedules get hectic, it’s not as easy to stay active. Exercise can help reduce stress, give you a fresh perspective and produce mood-boosting endorphins. Try fun activities that keep you moving such as sledding, building snowmen, skiing and ice skating. Simply taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking around the mall before you start your holiday shopping can make a difference. Try going to a group exercise class with a friend to stay motivated. Our Energize fitness classes are great for staying active during the winter. If you’re consistent with exercise, your body will respond with healthy outcomes.

Mind Your Mental Health

Take a step back and remember to prioritize your health. Anticipate the holiday stressors that affect you and create a plan to manage them. Making time for yourself is important to stay calm during the holiday season. While electronics help connect us to family and friends, being constantly “plugged in” can create anxiety due to information overload. Everyone should unplug and spend some quiet time alone. Journaling or writing down a list of things you’re thankful for can help put you at ease.

For some, keeping up the holiday spirit can be hard work. The shorter, cold days of winter can create a downward spiral into a phase of depression. This is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and affects millions of people every year. It’s important to recognize when you may need help and talk to your doctor.

Prevent Illness

Getting sick only adds to stress and can put a damper on holiday activities. Winter also brings cold and flu season. You can keep the flu away by getting a flu shot, making sure to wash your hands and cover your cough. And remember, you are what you eat. A nutrient-dense diet can help strengthen your immune system to fight off illness. Stay in contact with your doctor if you have any concerns about your health or feel like you’re getting sick.

Don’t Drink Your Calories

From cider and eggnog to hot chocolate, there’s no shortage of delicious holiday drinks. However, it’s important to keep in mind how these will affect your health in the long run. For example, one cup of eggnog can pack around 350 calories. Drink smart; keep portions small and limit yourself to one glass per occasion. Better yet, trade in the high-calorie drinks for something with a lower calorie content, like sparkling wine with fresh cranberries.

Originally published Dec. 17, 2015. Last updated Dec. 2, 2019.

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