6 Ways to Avoid Holiday Stress
By Libby Barrett
Stress during the holidays is common. In fact, it’s even expected. But it’s not something people should just accept. Stress anytime of the year should be held at bay. Here’s what you can do to take the season in stride.
The effects of holidays
It first helps to understand why stress is so rampant this time of year. The American Psychological Association reports that the stress of the holidays has three main culprits: Money, time and commercialism.
People feel pressure to give gifts while at the same time not overspending or going in debt. Additional stress comes from growing pressures to shop, wrap, plan meals, and prep for celebrations. Feelings of loneliness can also increase this time of year.
During the holidays and year-round, it’s important to get a handle on this stress. This is because when we’re under stress, our bodies release cortisol and other stress hormones, which can negatively affect our health. Further, the Mayo Clinic explains that long-term stress can lead to anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain, and memory and concentration impairment.
To counter these risks, these six strategies can help.
1. Stay active.
Physical exercise is known to relieve stress. Research shows it stimulates the production of endorphins and enkephalins, which are the body’s natural feel-good hormones. Based on this, as time-crunched as the holidays may seem, it is important to stick with your exercise routine.
Grab a buddy and go to a class together, which experts say will also combat feelings of isolation that can increase around the holidays. Also, when shopping, park your car far from the entrance so you’ll get some extra steps in. If you’re going out of town, research exercise options available where you’ll be. Many gyms do trial or out-of-town package options. Or find some fun videos online of exercise routines you can do that don’t require a gym or equipment.
2. Don’t overcommit.
Remember that saying no doesn’t make you a scrooge. If you have to decline a few party invites, it’s okay! During the holidays, it’s important to make time for you. Take care of yourself and family by maintaining your routine as much as possible and getting plenty of rest.
3. Set a budget.
Before you start shopping, establish how much you truly have to spend on gifts and adhere to your budget. It can be easy to get carried away with lavish last-minute presents, but keep in mind it’s the thought that counts. Expenses quickly add up and can create stress going into the new year, especially if you’re holiday shopping on credit.
4. Stay hydrated.
During the holidays, alcohol is often the beverage of choice at many events. While a festive cocktail can take off the stress initially, overindulging can do just the opposite, and it can lead to dehydration. Be sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and drink alcohol responsibly.
5. Try yoga.
Yoga is an ancient mind-body practice that focuses on connecting breath with movement, which studies say can engage the parasympathetic nervous system and promote relaxation, digestion, and a sense of calm. Also, yoga may help reduce stress and anxiety, while enhancing mood and overall wellbeing.
You don’t have to be a master Yogi to try this beneficial exercise. There are classes for all levels and skill-sets, and some that don’t even require floor work. Ask the fitness professionals at your YMCA how to get started.
6. Practice gratitude.
Finally, when you’re feeling stressed, try to think of four or five things for which you’re grateful. Experts say cultivating gratitude is one of the best ways to improve emotional wellbeing and increase satisfaction and happiness. Especially during the consumerism of the holidays, take the time to slow down, reflect on what you have, and be grateful.
This holiday season, relax and focus on peace and happiness. Stay in the moment and try to keep a handle on stress. For more support for healthy living, visit the fitness professionals at the YMCA.
Libby is a certified yoga and group fitness instructor and holds specialty certifications in Barre, Silver Sneakers, and BodyPump. She always incorporates cross-training to improve total health and wellness. Her goal is to help everyone love their body while building strength and confidence.