Stress. It’s one of those things that most of us can count on during the holidays.
That, and eating too many holiday cookies.
Oh, is that just me? Now, I know I’m not the only one who overdoes it with the sugar.
Yeah yeah yeah, I can hear you now: But my family, they just drive me nuts every time I am around them, or The amount of shopping and planning and traveling is just too much, or Work is always so crazy this time of year, I just suck it up and guzzle copious amounts of coffee.
Look, I get it. Stress this time of year is a given. BUT, the level of stress doesn’t have to supersede the feelings of connection, love and joy of the season.
I have included my 6 ways to reduce stress and stay more balanced during the holidays below.
1. Take a Deep Breath
This may seem simple, but hear me out on this one.
Taking 4-5 deep breaths is the quickest way to completely reset your mind and body.
Scientifically put, deep breaths help turn on your “rest and digest” system (the parasympathetic nervous system) and turn off your “fight or flight” system (the sympathetic nervous system). By taking a deep breath, you are telling your body that you are safe, By doing so, your rest and digest system is turned on and relaxation can occur.
Physiologically, your body cannot be stressed and relaxed at the same time. Breathing tells your body to relax, turning off the stress.
Whether you’re intentionally taking time first thing in the morning to take deep breaths, or doing so in the midst of a chaotic afternoon of prepping dinner for 10 while simultaneously wrapping gifts, doing so will help reduce stress in your body and mind.
So, do it. Breathe, baby. Breathe.
2. Take Time for You & Put Yourself First
This one is a bit tougher for most of us. Taking time for ourselves, especially during the holidays is hard.
It can also be the difference between a stress-free holiday and a stress-full holiday.
Setting aside time for yourself — whether it’s first thing in the morning or in between running errands — is key to reducing stress. By giving yourself ‘you time,’ you’re allowing space to reset, be alone, have quiet time. It will also help you be more present and connected with those around you.
So, break away from the family for a 10 minute walk around the neighborhood, or say no to a holiday party you really don’t want to go to and really take some time for you.
I can guarantee you won’t regret it.
3. Reduce Caffeine & Processed Foods
I know, reducing caffeine and processed foods cures everything, right?
Well, yes, but it really does help with your stress levels. 😉
Caffeine and processed foods (i.e. packaged foods like candies, cookies, chips, bars, etc) increase inflammation in our bodies (our body’s reaction to stress).
When you’re feeling stressed, reducing your amount of caffeine and processed food intake can significantly help.
4. Stand in Your Truth
Have you ever been sitting around the dinner table when your Aunt Susie starts asking your questions about your life? Maybe why you are still single, how your job that you hate is going or why you haven’t lost the weight you have been talking about losing for the past 2 years?
We’ve all been there.
As much as you don’t want these conversations to bother you, they can be upsetting and stressful. Just anticipating the conversations can cause stress.
Most of the time, these questions bother us because we ourselves are uncomfortable with where we’re at in life. Because of that, we take these questions as a personal attack. We become angry, resentful. The questions trigger something within us and we react.
This causes stress. The anticipation and the actual event.
Instead of letting these conversations get to you, stand in your truth. Own where you’re at in your life. Own that you’re still at the job you hate, but your intention is to find a new one. Own that you are holding onto more weight than you want to, but you’ve been exercising more and are feeling great.
When you can stand in your truth, the stress falls away and you are happier (BONUS!)
5. Be Present
The end of the year tends to whiz by for most of us. Between the holiday parties, trips home, cramming last minute work projects in and coordinating gifts, it can easily become a whirlwind.
Have you ever looked back at the month of December and wondered where the hell it went?
I don’t know about you, but for me the holidays are a time I look forward to all year long. Spending time with family, sharing meals together, laughing and making memories are what fuel me. But, those experiences can be lessened when we’re stressed and not fully there.
By intentionally being present, time slows down and you soak in all those little moments that delicately craft our memories.
The easiest way to do this is being aware of where your mind goes in every moment. When you’re cooking with your sister or wrapping presents with your step-dad, pay attention to where your mind goes and bring it back to the present moment. Are you stressing about the work email that is waiting in your inbox or feeling the knife in your hand as you chop potatoes for your family recipe?
Practicing being present reduces the stress of the future or worry about the past, and brings you into this moment. And most of the time, everything is okay in this moment. Without the added layers of stress for what is to come, the present moment can be quite beautiful.
Try it. I dare you.
6. Practice Gratitude
Last but certainly not least is practicing gratitude.
Practicing gratitude is one of my personal favorites when it comes to reducing one’s stress. And it happens to be quite perfect for this time of year.
Studies have shown that people who practice gratitude have a whole slew of benefits, including stronger immune systems, more joy and optimism and higher levels of positive emotions.
Start your own gratitude practice by writing down 5 things you are grateful for everyday. They can be as broad as your health or as specific as the stranger who held open the door for you at Starbucks this morning.
Stress may be inevitable this time of year, but the levels of stress don’t have to be astronomical. I encourage you to pick one or two of my tips and use them this holiday season.
How do you reduce your stress during the holidays? Share your secret in the comments section below.