Fall is quickly coming to the end which means winter is fast approaching, and with that one of the busiest times of the year, the holiday season.
Though the holiday season is a time for coming together and celebrating, it can also bring with it a lot of stress for many people.
It may seem like overwhelm, stress, and chaos are just an inevitable outcome of the holiday season, however with some preparation, intention, and organization it doesn't have to be.
If the holidays leave you feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and stressed, read our tips below to help you feel less stressed and more joy this holiday season.
Schedule time for self care
Just because it's the holidays doesn't mean that your self care rituals have to fly out the window, in fact it's during times like these that it's even more important to take care of yourself. When times get busy and there is more added stress, your body will feel it.
Get in the habit of taking care of yourself preventatively, instead of waiting for burnout to get you to pay attention and take care of your body and mind. In the spirit of making things less overwhelming, keep it simple, this isn't another mountain of to do's to add to your already busy schedule.
Self care can be as simple as meditating for 5 minutes in the morning, enjoying a hot cup of your favourite tea in silence, relaxing in a hot bath, or making sure you are eating balanced meals during your day!
It can be hard to stick to your regular routines once the busy holiday season is in full swing. With the extra festivities, events, dinners, and a fully booked calendar, keeping up with home cooked meals and your exercise routine can seem almost impossible. Though maintaining any sort of healthy routine will likely take some extra planning and commitment, it can make a world of difference in how you feel and navigate the holiday season.
On the other hand, expecting yourself to follow the same routines as you regularly do can actually just add onto your stress. For this reason it's important to be flexible and forgiving towards yourself when plans change.
If you tend to prep all of your food in advance, try preparing healthy snacks or making yourself a balanced breakfast that meets your needs and ensures you start your day off right.
If you're a gym goer and find yourself tight for time, any amount or form of exercise can provide benefits on mental and emotional health while providing relief from stress (1).
The key to maintaining healthy routines during the holiday season or while traveling is to keep it simple so you can still stick to it even if you need to revert to modifications.
Let's be real, there are going to be moments where we lose our cool just a bit and when others push our buttons just a little too far. Instead of letting these moments ruin the holidays or zap your nervous system to the point where you need to take a vacation from the holidays, there are things you can do to help you remain cool, calm, and collected.
Mindfulness is one of those tools that can help you to respond more calmly instead of react, and keep those stress hormones in check.
What is mindfulness? Simply put, mindfulness is the act of being present and aware in the moment.
Mindfulness has been shown to reduce activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for switching on your stress response, resulting is lowered stress levels (2)(3). Research confirms that mindfulness is a simple yet powerful practice that can improve mood and emotion regulation (4).
Over 200 reviewed studies done on mindfulness found that mindfulness-based therapy proved to be effective at reducing stress, anxiety, and depression (5).
You can practice mindfulness by meditating, breathing consciously, restorative yoga, or simply being present and noticing the thoughts and sensations arising within you.
When you practice mindfulness on a regular basis, you become more aware of your needs and emotions as well as those of others which increases your emotional intelligence, a key factor in maintaining harmonious relationships. You might find that not only are you less stressed but those around you are responding to you differently as well.
Set your priorities straight
The holidays tend to be crammed with all sorts of activities which can quickly become overwhelming and draining.
This is where setting your priorities is essential in order to ensure you aren't pushing past your limits.
What is most important to you? What activities or events might you need to scrap this year in order to make room for what matters the most? Where might you need to set boundaries in order to protect your mental and emotional health?
When you are aware of your limits and when negative stress starts to set in, you can then make decisions that honour yourself and that don't leave a strain on your relationships.
Release the pressure and expectations
It's easy to set unrealistic expectations on ourselves and those around us, however this is most often a recipe for disappointment and frustration.
Maybe you expect yourself to be just as productive and committed to your routines during the holidays as you do in your everyday life. Maybe you have high expectations for how everyone gets along and how much fun they are having. Maybe you put a lot of pressure on yourself to show up a certain way to impress others.
Avoid putting unnecessary pressure on what you get done, how you are perceived by others, or how productive you are, and remember that the holidays are short lived. How do you want to look back and remember them?
Letting yourself off the hook and practicing forgiveness when not everything goes to plan will go a long way in helping you to feel less stressed and have more fun during the holidays.
If there is ever a time to take adaptogens, it's now!
Adaptogens are herbal remedies that have been used for centuries to help the body better respond and cope with stressors as well as support overall energy and wellbeing.
You can use adaptogens as a preventative measure and as extra support to calm your nervous system, improve your stress response, and reduce mental and physical fatigue.
Adaptogens aren't typically fast acting but with regular use you may notice a difference in the way you usually respond to stress, the quality of your sleep, your energy levels, and your mood.
There are many different adaptogens that include herbs and medicinal mushrooms such as reishi, ashwagandha, ginseng, cordyceps, and holy basil.
Check out our guide here to learn more about adaptogens and determine which one may be a good fit for you.