We all know that the Holidays can be a stressful time of year. For some it’s having the whole family around which can bring up old family dynamics and other stressors, for others it can be having the kids home from school for 2 weeks, while trying to get everything ready; gift shopping, meal planning, baking, Holiday cards and so on. Finding time for yourself can easily fall off the priority list. The holidays can also bring immense joy to the home, by reuniting with family and friends.
Here are a few tips to help minimize stress over the holidays while maximizing joy, warmth and connection.
- Take Time for yourself: During the hustle and bustle of the Holidays It is important to set aside time everyday to allow yourself to relax and escape the stress of life. Give yourself a private, mini vacation from everything going on around you. Sometimes this can be taking a relaxing bath in the evening after the kids have gone to bed. Or it can be taking 5 minutes to escape into your bedroom to pause and take some deep breaths once you notice your stress levels going up.
- Meditation and Relaxation techniques: Practicing deep breathing techniques, the relaxation response, or sitting still for 5 minutes in a quite space are great ways to help reduce stress and induce relaxation. Meditation really trains us to calm our over-active minds; it’s a great tool for prevention as it can lead to greater mental and emotional clarity in times of stress.
- Friendship and Support: Having friends who are willing to listen and support you through good and bad times is essential, learn how to reach out and ask for support when you are feeling overwhelmed. Talking about our feelings with a supportive friend, neighbour, family member or a counsellor can help empower you to feel more in control of your life. You don’t have to go through stressful or difficult times alone!
- Physical Activity: Research shows that moving around and getting the heart rate up causes the body to release endorphins (the body’s feel good hormones). Exercising provides some stress relief as well as an opportunity to blow off some steam. When we are tense, our bodies tense up as well, leaving us feeling constricted and often rigid in our responses to stress. Exercise is a great way to relax both the body and the mind.
- Nutrition: Eating foods that are good for you can be a challenge, especially during the Holidays. Healthy eating however, not only improves your physical health, but plays a major role in your mental health. When your body gets the proper nutrients, it is better able to function in every capacity. Indulging in excess calories, alcohol or sugar during the Holiday can lower your capacity for dealing with stress and often make it worse. Indulging a little during the Holidays is not a bad thing, but remember the saying “everything in moderation” and don’t let the Holidays be an excuse to throw your healthy eating plans out the window.
To prepare yourself for dealing with the stress of the holidays, practice these 5 strategies and soon you will find that, these skills lead to good mental health and ultimately a happier you.
Laura is a Master Therapeutic Counsellor and a Registered Counselling Supervisor (MTC,RCS,#2022) with the Association of Cooperative Counselling Therapists of Canada (ACCT). She is also a Certified Group Facilitator.