December is here and the holidays have begun. As I sit here and reminisce about Christmas’ past I am excited for the upcoming holiday. Unfortunately, for a lot of people this time brings a wave of stress, sadness, and depression. Whether it is trying to find that perfect gift or dreading the visit from your overbearing relatives, it can lead to being anxious and unhappy.
Though you may feel this is just a normal part of the holiday season, in reality the physiological stress of these couple months can be overbearing on your body and lead to serious health issues. According to a 2006 study by the American Psychological Association (APA) women are more at risk for holiday stress and were more likely to indulge in unhealthy behaviors to deal with their holiday stress.
So instead of getting wasted at your holiday party or inhaling those treats in the break room follow these 10 tips to have a happy holiday without the stress!
- Be thankful and practice gratitude: Take This time of year we tend to focus on the negative things going on. Remember that song “The 12 Pains of Christmas?” Instead focus each day on what is positive in your life. Listing three things that you are grateful for will help you re-shift your attention in a more constructive way. It can be something as little as being happy that the sun is shining or thankful for your hot running shower. Think about the little things we take for granted each day and rejoice for having them.
- Get enough sleep: With all the running around, holiday parties, shopping, and wrapping we may not get our best sleep. One thing I find that is better is to get up early instead of staying up late. This way you will not be as tired and will have extra time in the morning to cross off things on your to-do list.
- Write down your feelings: For me putting pen to paper is really helpful when I am stressed, sad, or angry. It gives me an outlet to get out my feelings while also being able to reflect on what the trigger may be. This can help you from getting upset in the future.
- Limit you sugar intake: I remember when I worked in advertising and there was a ton of food all over the office from all the sales reps who sent gifts of food and candy. It was hard not to resist those tasty treats. Know that the more you indulge in these foods the more your stress and depression will linger. Sugar will only make you feel good for a little bit but you eventually will come off your high and feel down in the dumps. My rule is to have only 25 grams (6 tsp) of added sugar a day.
- Get some sunlight: This time of year the days are short and the nights are long. This can leave us feeling like we never see the light of day. Take time to get some sun and go outdoors. On the days you are not working take a hike outside or go for a walk in the park. Be sure to spend 15 minutes outside and let the light shine on your hands and face. This will give you the vitamin D you so need to lower the stress hormones. If you work in an office and do not have any windows to the outside take at least one break. This time of year the days are darker longer and trapped in offices with no windows we never see the light of day. The lack of this nutrient during this time of year can contribute to feeling sad and stressed. You may want to get your vitamin D tested. If it less than 90 ng/mL you may need to get daily sunlight. Not able to get out side? Look to supplement with a good quality liquid D3 supplement (contact me for recommendations).
- Exercise Your Worries Away: Whenever I am sad, depressed, or anxious I find that working out really shifts my mood to the positive. Those endorphins you are pumping out will help to keep your holiday stress at bay. Even just taking a short walk will help to manage your holiday worries and wash them away.
- Increase your intake of vegetables and plant foods: Ideally you should be getting at least 9 to 10 servings of vegetables a day. According to the CDC less than 9 percent of Americans are getting this in their diet. Increase your vegetable servings to help combat stress and anxiety this holiday season. Colorful vegetables have antioxidant properties that will help to combat the inflammation caused by stress. Vitamin C found in colorful veggies will also ease the physiological effects of cortisol production when the body is under stress. Stress can constrict blood vessels and increase your blood pressure. The fiber found in veggies will help to relax blood vessels and lower your blood flow so make sure you eat some veggies at every meal (learn how to make veggie taste great here).
- Do something that makes you smile and laugh: Take time to have fun. Do something you enjoy. Have a fond memory of a holiday re-create it. Spend time with loved ones to laugh and talk. Take time to call someone you haven’t seen in a while. Watch a fun holiday movie that will put you in a good mood.
- Avoid the malls and shop online: I hate going to the stores even when it isn’t the holidays. What I have found is that shopping online is the best thing ever. You can avoid the lines, know exactly how much you are spending before you leave and get it delivered straight to you house without ever leaving. This will also free up time for more important things you need to get done for the holiday season. Want to get cash back this year on your holiday spending? Try eBates. It gives you percentage of cash back at most stores you shop at. The best is this time of year they are offering double cash back on a lot of stores. Check it out here!
- Ask for help if you need it: A lot of us will bear the brunt of all the holiday chores and preparations because we feel like they need to be just perfect. Incorporating help from those in your family will help to bring you closer together and create holiday memories that will last a lifetime. Have a lot to get done? Get your kids or significant other to pitch in to write holiday cards, bake, and clean the house. Have company coming over for dinner? Do a potluck to share the brunt of the cooking.
Learning to manage your stress and anxiety this time of year will help you manage your health and happiness now and in the year to come. Have issues with how to control your stress levels? Contact me for help.