The holiday’s are a wonderful opportunity to appreciate what we have and the wonderful people in our lives.  However, it’s no secret that holidays comes with their fair share of holiday stress.  And as we all know, this year is going to be much harder than ever before for everyone. While we can’t eliminate the cause of our stress, there are several things we can do to manage and reduce the negative effects of stress on the body.

First, Take a Breath Dear

One of the easiest ways to reduce the affects of holiday stress is just to take a few deliberate breaths. It seems simple and the beauty of this is…it really is simple.  Deep breathing is more than a spiritual or meditative practice, it really has a powerful affect on your biology.  Because our bodies still respond to stress the same way they did hundreds of years ago [back when we were running from predators], taking deep breaths sends the signal to your body that the “impending doom” you were just dealing with is gone. Basically no creature ever stopped in the midst of running from certain death to think “you know what I should do right now, sit down and breathe into my diaphragm”. So logically if that’s what you’re doing there must not be anything worth stressing over.  So in turn taking those deep breaths will slow the production of cortisol, lower your heart rate, speed up your digestion & allow for clear, rational thought.  We delve more deeply into this in our free eCourse as well if you’re interested in understanding how this works a bit better.

If you’ve never taken the time to sit down and practice deep breathing, this is the easiest way to start:

1) Sit or lie down (you can close your eyes but you don’t  have to)
2) Inhale deeply through your nose and count to 5 slowly.  Ensure that you’re inhaling for the full
5 seconds
3) Hold you breath and slowly count to 3
4) Exhale through your mouth or nose and slowly count to 10.  Exhale for the full 10 seconds
trying to expel all the air out of your lungs
5) repeat as little as 2 more times

This exercise can last for last than 60seconds or up to 10mins depending on your time & preference.  If you’re more of a visual learner you can watch our video on deep breathing as well.

Replace Your Afternoon Coffee with a Little Sunlight

You may not realize this but we’re all affected in some way by the change of the seasons.  Even if fall & winter are your favorite seasons the reduced access to sunlight can affect your body’s natural rhythm.  That’s one of the many reasons so many people deal with seasonal fatigue and lack of motivation this time of year. During a time when most of us are juggling a dozen different plans (even if they are mostly virtual this year) low motivation & fatigue are the last things we need.  

Of course we want to be safe with our choices this year, but there’s still options to take in a little more Vitamin D. Try a socially distanced walk in the park, around your block or even for the occasional hike.  Adjusting your home environment to favor sunlight can also help.  Try keeping the blinds open during the day (if possible) or getting a couple of daylight bulbs to brighten up your space.  This will ensure that even when you’re inside working, planning, cooking or wrapping gift you’re always in an environment that works to combat the effects of holiday stress

Establish Morning & Bedtime Routines

I’ve said this a 100 times, our brain loves patterns.  We thrive in patterns and routine.  For most of us some of holiday stress stems major changes to our routine. Even if your personality isn’t a lover of routine chances are there’s something about your day-to-day, such as what you’re eating, where you’re staying or the food you’re preparing that will change pretty significantly.  It may not seem like it but a change to your environment is also a change in the pattern your brain is used to and can cause a peak in your stress.  So creating just a couple routines that you can keep with you to bookend your day will provide some familiarity.  Plus it will also help you to sleep better and therefore feel more relaxed throughout each day.

We do have an blog post specifically on establishing bedtime routines that you can check out. Creating a morning routine is similar but you of course want to include activities that ease you into alertness rather than relaxation. Things such as reading an interesting article, studying something or checking work emails.  Much like the bedtime routine also try to include at least one activity you genuinely enjoy so if you love sitting on your patio with a warm cup of coffee/tea or doing a 5min yoga routine add that to your routine.  And the last, very important, step is to get ready for the day.  I know right now that can feel unnecessary but getting ready encourages you to do something productive, it makes you feel like you day has started.  Of course you don’t have to do a full face of makeup, getting ready just means changing out of your PJs or bathrobe and brushing your hair.  Any extra steps are bonus.

Do Something for You

During the holidays we tend to spend most of our time thinking about those around us and can almost feel guilty prioritizing yourself, but self care should never be viewed as a selfish act.  Ensuring that your body and mind are healthy is a basic human need.  So devote some time to just you.  This year that could be in the form of spending time alone with a hobby if you’ve been overstimulated lately or setting aside time to talk to someone you’ve really missed.  Just be sure to really plan for this so you can’t put it off.  Put it in your calendar, treat it like an appointment and get it done.  Regardless of how you may be feeling you deserve the time for self care and you’ve more than earned it this year!

Allow Yourself to Enjoy Holiday Meals

This is often the hardest thing to do for most people, & maybe it’s the first thing that comes to mine when you think of holiday stress. We tend to go into the season with restrictions on our mind.  “Ok I’ll stay on track if I limit myself to 1 small slice of pie” or “Maybe I won’t gain weight if I can just avoid the carbs” or “I’ll just skip the eggnog this year & I’ll be fine”.  All that does is, yet again, trigger a stress response. So rather than ‘saving calories’ all day for the holiday meal or telling yourself what you can’t have just go through your day as normal.  Have breakfast and lunch that day and be sure to stay hydrated.  When it comes time to eat you won’t be approaching a buffet of food feeling ravenous hungry and can get all of your favorite foods in healthy portions.  If you’re still concerned about overeating, practice eating slowly.  It take the brain 20mins to register that you’re full and if you’re eating quickly it can be way too late be then.  So take you time, chat with friends & family as you eat and give you body time to let you know if you want a 2nd plate or not.

We’ll going live on Instagram with master chef @chefsabrinamancin to talk in more depth about this topic this Wednesday at 12pm EST Join us to learn more!

And if you really want to get a handle on managing your wellness and your life check out our free eCourse