The holidays can be wonderful; you are surrounded by friends and family, and are looking forward to what will hopefully be a prosperous new year. But for many, this time of year can also be a source of stress, whether it is due to the pressure of entertaining, navigating complicated family dynamics, the rising cost of gift-giving, or grieving the loss of loved ones with whom holidays were previously spent. If you feel yourself beginning to get anxious or stressed over the holidays, the following suggestions may help you manage this challenging time.
Exercise – You probably already know that the health benefits associated with exercise are numerous. It can lower blood pressure, increase physical stamina, and is essential for weight loss. But, it can also help manage increasing stress levels due to the production of endorphins during a good workout. Endorphins can energize you and also help you sleep better, which will both reduce stress. Exercise can also help fight fatigue and improve cognitive function, which will better prepare you to deal with stressful situations. To start incorporating more exercise into your daily life, visit Ways to Increase Fitness in Your Everyday Routine.
Eat Superfoods – Did you know that certain foods can help bring your stress level down? When we’re stressed we tend to seek out comfort foods (think: carbs and cheese) but what we really need are green leafy vegetables, oatmeal, and fish, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Also, good news! Dark chocolate is on the list, as research has shown that consumption can lower cortisol levels. Just choose varieties that contain 70 percent or more cocoa, for optimal health benefits. Check out our previous blog post, Healthy Foods in Your Daily Diet, for additional fare that packs a punch.
Lean on your Social Network – When we begin to feel stressed, we tend to retreat from those who love and care about us, which is actually the exact opposite of what we should be doing. When you feel yourself starting to withdraw from friends and family, make the effort to pick up the phone, or schedule a time to get coffee in a quite café. You don’t even necessarily have to talk about the fact that you’re feeling stressed, just taking time out of your hectic schedule to slow down with a good companion can go a long way in recharging you.
Pick up a Good Book – Did a friend or colleague recommend a good book that you haven’t had time to check out? Make doing so a priority during stressful times, and you could reduce your stress level by as much as 68%, according to a 2009 study completed by the University of Sussex. Try reading a hard copy book before bed to limit phone and television screen time, which can reduce the quantity and quality of sleep even without any other stressful feelings.
Practice Yoga and/or Meditation – Practicing yoga and meditation are excellent ways to learn to block out the world around you, and focus instead on your breathing and the intentions for your practice, which can simply be to reduce your stress level. Specific yoga poses, such as child’s pose and lotus pose, are natural stress relievers, and can help you return to a place of calm once you feel yourself getting worked up. Visit Find a Yoga Practice that Works for You to learn about the many styles of yoga available to suit your interests and skill level.
Make an Upbeat Playlist – Make baking, wrapping, decorating, or any other holiday-related activity more fun by putting together a playlist of your favorite tunes. Whether they’re holiday songs or not, listening to some great music and singing or dancing along will take your mind off of your to-do list, at least temporarily, and help you destress and enjoy more of the season. These tunes could also help fuel your workouts!
Simplify, or Simply Say ‘No’ – It can be hard to turn down invitations during the holidays, but to manage your stress level, it may be for the best. Review invitations as they arrive, and consider if it’s the best way to spend your time during an already busy holiday season. Try to limit your schedule to a few social engagements that you truly enjoy, versus those that you attend just because you have been invited.
CDPHP® has a host of resources available to help you manage your stress, and your overall health. Check out our list of free community wellness classes, available at the Healthy Living Center, or at a location closer to home. If managing your stress has been a concern for some time now, you can use CDPHP Health Coach Connection℠ to talk with a certified health coach. They can work directly with your primary care physician (PCP) to address your health needs.