How-To Live Stress-Free During the Holidays
A little bit of stress at times is to be expected and can even be healthy. In small doses, stress can spur you into action. However, constant stress around the holidays can weaken your immune system, make you feel crummy, and actually promote weight gain. Holiday cold, flu, or extra pounds anyone? But perhaps worst of all, it can take most of the joy out of the season. Have you ever wondered what you can do to counter holiday stress?
Here’s how to do it in a few easy steps:
Step 1: Identify what situations, people, or activities stress you out the most. Learn to notice which people, things, and situations provoke strong stress responses.
Common signs of stress include:
Rapid heartbeat, diarrhea or constipation, nausea, muscle stiffness, bodily exhaustion, frequent colds, anxiety, poor judgment, memory impairment, negative thinking patterns, increased hunger, isolating behavior, habits such as nail biting, cheek chewing, or pacing, unshakable feelings of being overwhelmed, moodiness, and a pervasive case of grumpiness
Common causes of stress during the holidays include:
Social pressure and anxiety to look and feel fantastic, family interactions, money and budget issues, time constraints, exposure to unhealthy foods and large quantities of alcohol, unrealistic expectations and trying to un-tangle last year’s Christmas lights
Step 2: Limit your exposure to strong stressors.Plan your holiday schedule in advance and look to space out stressful situations or eliminate them all together wherever possible.
Step 3: Practice deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. When you start to feel stressed out, take 5-10 calming deep breaths. This is an effective and immediate way for your body and mind to relax. With each inhale mentally scan your body for signs of physical or emotional stress. On the exhale focus on relaxing and letting go of bodily stress or bad feeling.
Step 4: Equip yourself to cope with stress-reducing behaviors. Make a list of all the things that reduce stress for you. Make your list personal and varied. Predict stressful situations and plan a stress-reducing activity before and after the event. Also, look for opportunities to apply immediate stress-reducing behaviors as soon as you feel your stress levels start to mount. For example, when Sally finds herself at a family party starting to unravel because her mother-in-law is making disapproving comments on the decor, she slips to the bathroom for a few minutes on her own to conjure a bit of calm by brushing her hair and applying lip gloss.
Step 5: Manage expectations and set reasonable goals for the holiday. It’s a well-known fact: The holidays are a variable breeding ground for stressful situations. Whether you’re a social savant or an introvert, the pressure to make every year the “best holiday ever” can easily zap serenity and frazzle the steadiest of nerves. List out the parties, traditions, and activities that are most important to you this year. Ask yourself sincerely if the list is reasonable and allow yourself to pair down on some obligations to leave time and energy for you.