5 Holistic Tools to Help You Manage Holiday Stress
By Elena Simonsen
It’s that time of year again! The holiday season!
The holiday season is in full swing. It is the time of office parties, family gatherings, drinks with friends...and lots of food. Despite all the fun, you may find yourself feeling rushed or overwhelmed in a time in which you’re told you are supposed to feel joyous and excited. You may be expected to attend multiple holiday gatherings, buy gifts for others, and/or brave airplane travel to see family. On top of that, you’re probably still trying to maintain your typical daily routines and obligations. So the pressure you feel to be happy and festive at this point may be stressing you out even more, and you may be craving peace, balance, and rest.
But how do you do that exactly?
First, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Many people experience a broad range of emotions (including anxiety, sadness, fear, excitement, joy, and loneliness) during the holiday season. It can be difficult to navigate and understand these emotions and then respond to them accordingly. What you can do is make yourself a priority, which will help you manage any stress you are experiencing.
So here are 5 of my favorite, holistic tools that I recommend (and use myself!) to do just that:
1. Take time for self-reflection
The holiday season may make you feel like you’re constantly moving, leaving little space for stillness and contemplation. In reality, the end of the year is one of the best times to slow down and identify areas of growth and stagnation, and begin to formulate intentions for the upcoming year. This time of self-reflection can keep you focused on your goals, and reduce your stress by reminding you of what you’ve accomplished in the previous year and what you have to look forward to in the upcoming year. I recommend making a list of each of the following as part of your self-reflection practice:
● Things that you are grateful for this year
● Your intentions for the upcoming year
● Words of affirmation or encouragement for yourself to think back to into the new year
2. Sleep is everything!
The holiday season typically involves parties or get-togethers that go late into the night on top of your busy work schedule. If you find yourself feeling frazzled, drained, or downright exhausted this time of the year, it may be helpful to look at and adjust your sleeping habits to help you feel more energized and animated as you go about the holiday season. Here are 3 holistic ways to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep:
● Develop bedtime rituals
I recommend setting aside at least 30 minutes to an hour to “wind down” before bed. Maybe you end your evening by drinking a cup of herbal tea, brushing your teeth, then laying in bed with a book. Or perhaps doing a 20-30 minute meditation works for you. You may have to experiment with your routine for a while before you find what works best for you. Once you’ve chosen your routine, make sure to be as consistent with it as possible so that it becomes a habit.
● Put away the electronics
Unplug from your phone, computer, and TV at least an hour before bed. The blue light from these devices tells your body to stay awake. Eliminating these lights will remind your body that it’s time to fall asleep.
● Be mindful of caffeine
Do you drink a lot of coffee, tea, or soda throughout the day? It may be time to cut back, or at least stop drinking these caffeinated beverages earlier in the day. I recommend not drinking caffeine after 12pm in order to avoid feeling “wound up” at the time you’re hoping to “wind down.”
3. Pay attention to what you're putting in your body
The holiday season often entails consuming higher volumes of rich, sugary foods. The large plates of cookies and pies at holiday gatherings can be very enticing. It’s okay and perfectly healthy to eat and enjoy these foods! Just be mindful of the quantity that you’re consuming, and pay attention to how consuming different foods impacts your mood. Maybe you find that you don’t really want that second helping of sweet potato casserole - or maybe you do! Either one is okay, as long as you’re checking in with yourself prior to making these decisions rather than eating mindlessly.
4. Eliminate “shoulds”
Everyone has expectations of what the holidays “should” look like. Maybe you think you “should” be cooking extravagant meals, getting your friends and family the “perfect” gifts, and feeling happy all season long. The problem with having “shoulds” for the holidays is that if the holidays do not match the “shoulds” you hold for yourself, you will most likely experience feelings of guilt, which will take your focus away from enjoying the holiday season as it is. Rather than focusing on the “shoulds”, find small moments each day that bring you joy or peace. Focus on these moments and express gratitude for them- through your journaling practice or to another person.
The more stressed you feel, the more you may find yourself withdrawing from those around you- paradoxical to the holiday season being associated with spending time with those that matter most to you, and with spreading positive energy to those around you. You may be feeling very alone in your stress. You may be worried that others won’t understand your worries. You may be judging yourself because you think you “should” be happy. And again...you are not alone - many others are experiencing similar sentiments.
Connecting may be challenging, especially if you struggle with anxiety or depression, or in general prefer to spend time in solitude. However, connection can also help alleviate feelings of stress, anxiety, sadness, and loneliness. Here are 3 simple ways to help you cultivate feelings of connection to those around you:
● Give back by volunteering for a local organization
● Join a support group, sports league, spiritual community, or other organization (https://www.meetup.com/ is a great place to find some of these communities)
● Call, text, video chat, or meet up with you friends and family members on a daily basis
Use these tools to help you to relax and feel more at ease during this busy time of the year. Remember to focus on your wellbeing and remain grounded in the present moment - invest the time and energy in yourself and you will find the holiday season to be more peaceful and full of joy!
If you’re struggling to implement these strategies, or find that you continue to struggle with feelings of stress despite using them, it may be time to reach out to a licensed mental health professional for extra support and guidance. We got you! Be Your Best Self & Thrive are here to help you every step of the way!
Be Your Best Self & Thrive Counseling uses a holistic, non-judgmental approach to help you build an alliance with your mind, body and spirit that work together for your benefit. Elena is a therapist who is experienced in working with people struggling with managing stress and anxiety. You can find out more about her here. Book your free consultation here to discuss how we can help!