The holiday season can be filled with ups and downs in any given year. An overabundance of festivities meant to lift spirits and spread joy can actually leave us tired and cranky as the season continues. This year in particular, I have been asking myself: what can we do right now to decrease our stress levels and make this holiday season easier and more enjoyable?
Here are ten tips to make this year’s holiday season a success.
1. Stay connected
Public health guidance suggests we postpone large in person gatherings for another year. There might be a bright side to this: sometimes large gatherings make it harder to connect with people individually and can leave us feeling more isolated anyway. Be sure to connect with family and friends in smaller groups, either at a social distance or via technology. These small gatherings can encourage more meaningful conversations and keep us feeling connected.
2. Check-in with yourself
Take some time to reflect on how you are truly feeling. Are you happy, sad, grateful, or overwhelmed? Is there anything that you need? Remember that some increases in stress or sadness are not uncommon during the holiday season. This is perfectly normal, but sometimes we get upset with ourselves during a season we think is supposed to make us feel happy. If you find yourself feeling sad or upset, find someone to chat with such as a good friend, a trusted colleague, or a professional counselor.
3. Ask for what you need
Whether it is carving out some alone time (even just 10 minutes) to take a bath or read a book, picking a movie you actually want to watch, or requesting help with chores or childcare, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Remember our friends and family often want to help us but they aren’t mind readers. If you need something, be sure to ask for it.
4. Breathe deeply
This one might sound obvious or cliché, but awareness of breathing is essential to stress management. When we are stressed out, we tend to take shallow chest breaths which are not as restorative as deep belly breaths. Pause and spend a few minutes focusing on breathing. Put one hand on your chest and one on your belly and notice where you feel movement when you breathe. Concentrate on breathing deeply and expanding your belly like a balloon. Doing this once or twice a day can calm your body’s stress response.
5. Make a new tradition
Now is the perfect time to be creative and find a new holiday tradition or two. Enlist your buddies, kids, or co-workers for a good old fashioned brainstorming session. Idea starters could include planning a virtual baking session or checking out a drive-through light display. You can also reflect on past traditions that might not be possible this year, talk about what you love about them and what they mean to you, and create a new tradition based on those core ideas.
6. Focus on what you enjoy
Make sure you make time to engage in activities that you enjoy. Whether that is knitting, singing, crafting, fantasy football, taking a walk, or going for a run on the beach, invest in yourself and do something that is fun for you. Time spent in pleasurable activities might be just what you need.
7. Make laughter a priority
A great way to turn our moods around and tone down our stress levels is to laugh. Four-year-olds laugh about 300 times a day while adults laugh only 4!! Laughter really does make us happier so bring on the comedy specials and funny movies -- or better yet, put on your own online talent show with friends and family, take some silly selfies, or start a funny pet video contest on social media.
8. Enjoy good foods
Pay special attention to the foods you are eating. Be sure to get lots of fruits and vegetables, which are packed with vitamins and minerals. Lots of lean proteins are good too, for extra energy. When it comes to the goodies, remember to take time to savor each and every bite. If you slow down and enjoy your sweet treat, you’ll find that you will need less of it to feel satisfied.
9. Get plenty of sleep
Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night depending on what feels right for you. Take a few minutes to relax at the end of your day and remember to keep your bed only for sleeping whenever possible. You want your brain to associate your bed with sleep and not an energizing activity such as work.
10. Help others
Whether you seek out virtual volunteer events, socially distant ones, or simply help a friend or a family member in need. Volunteering with animals can also have the same effect, such as socializing cats and dogs at your local ASPCA, if possible. Helping others is a mood booster. It allows us to get out of our own heads and shift our focus to others. It reminds us that we function best as a team with a common goal and leaves us feeling happy to have made a positive difference.
Bonus tip: Get your dance on!
Exercise is a great way to release natural endorphins and improve overall health. Go for a jog or take a bike ride, grab a friend and go for a walk, play some kickball or get up and dance with the family. The only rule is that you choose something active and enjoyable for you while staying safe.
Following these tips can help you make the most of this holiday season. You can reuse them from year to year and create new traditions you can’t wait to repeat!!
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