Google holiday stress, managing holiday stress or any variation and your computer might crash. The holidays are synonymous with wanting to bang your head against a wall. For most of us it’s a love hate relationship: you cannot wait for the holiday season to begin and suddenly you’re thrilled when it’s over! It’s easy to morph into a Grinch when your wallet and calendar are screaming for relief.
The health industry preys on vulnerable overindulged holiday survivors. How many times do we wait until next year to start prioritizing our physical and mental health? We promise: better sleep, less drinking, less unhealthy food, stress management, the list goes on. Although environmental stressors are certainly a thing during the holidays much of our stress is self-induced. It’s due to the laundry list of our everyday struggles that get magnified this time of year.
If you’re prone to unhealthy eating holiday parties will gnaw at your inner demon. If your drinking habits aren’t healthy the holidays won’t do that any favors. If you’re a chronic procrastinator then there’s tons of shit to sneak up on you this time of year. A strained relationship with a family member will face unavoidable exposure. The examples are abundant.
So how do you avoid needing a fresh start come January while simultaneously reducing symptoms of holiday stress? Prioritizing a healthy balance is key. Here are some examples to get you started:
Rediscover the healthy drinking guidelines:
It’s easy to get carried away in an atmosphere of celebration. If you’re like our family the holiday parties are plentiful and all of them include alcohol. Pick some parties to opt out of drinking so you’re not going to party after party stressing your body with too much alcohol.
Following healthy guidelines for drinking means picking and choosing when you want to indulge. If you have two holiday parties every weekend and want to drink at each one, stick to 2-3 drinks and skip alcohol the rest of the week. Guidelines for men: 14 drinks or less in a week, 4 or less during one episode of drinking. For women: 7 drinks or less in a week, 3 or less during one episode. No one is perfect but it’s good to keep the guidelines in mind and try to stick to them.
Eat thoughtfully at holiday events/parties:
Unhealthy food is showcased this time of year. One dessert item at a holiday party often contains more than your daily recommendation of sugar. I’m not saying don’t enjoy the holidays, you can certainly make exceptions, but don’t eat a plethora of desserts at one party or indulge at each one of the 15 holiday events you have coming up.
Try to maintain your routine and eat healthy whenever possible. I’m obviously not going to bring my own meal to a holiday party, that’s effing rude, so I understand that what someone else serves may not be a typical healthy meal for me. You make the best of it, be flexible, and keep up with healthy eating/supplements when you’re at home. Try to avoid bringing holiday candy home for the grocery store. If it’s not in your house you can’t eat it.
Take your supplements, especially vitamin D:
I’ve preached on the importance of supplements on a couple occasions. They don’t replace healthy eating habits but supplements are vital so our bodies get the vitamins and minerals they need. Any deficiency can completely disrupt your health and well-being.
Even produce (one of your healthiest food options) doesn’t provide the nutrients it once had due to soil depletion, making it imperative to add supplements to even the healthiest modern day diet. Speak to a naturopathic doctor about what supplements are right for you but everyone should be on vitamin D and a probiotic. Skipping a solid store of vitamin D can lead to: fatigue, pain, muscle weakness and symptoms of depression.
Feel overwhelmed with everyday life? Well the holidays just keep piling on tasks to that to-do list. If you spread everything out it seems much more manageable. In the past I would wait until Christmas Eve to buy gifts. Now that I have a husband, son, and many more people to buy for it became obvious that last minute gift shopping wasn’t an option in order to preserve my mental health.
My goal is to start Christmas shopping after Thanksgiving and be completely done, including wrapping, by mid-December. Same with our holiday cards. I love sending out positive vibes to family/friends during the holidays but it’s a ton of work as well. Between designing the card and addressing a hundred envelopes it becomes amazingly time consuming. I made the goal to get our holiday cards sent out during the first week of December. This way once holiday parties start filling up our weekends I’ve already finished my other holiday obligations. This frees up time to relax and de-stress with my family in-between parties and holidays.
Fill your weeks with calming tea, occasional baths or steams, healthy fresh breakfasts, and early bedtimes. Your body will thank you for helping it rejuvenate during holiday stress rather than waiting until a crazy holiday schedule totally wipes you out.
Every weekend from now until the new year, Dan and I have at least one holiday party. In fact there are days where we were invited to multiple holiday parties falling on the same day. We could potentially attended two parties in a day but sometimes you just have to say no. This can involve guilt but it shouldn't. You need to do what’s best for your family. Although we would love to go to every holiday celebration, we had to RSVP no to avoid holiday party hopping.
Make a holiday spending plan:
Budget, budget, budget. Presents, hostess gifts, new outfits for holiday parties; things add up quickly. Have a specific amount of money dedicated to each person you’re buying a present for and you’ll be less tempted to reach for that more expensive item. If you know how much you are spending on everything it’s much less stressful when the holiday bills start rearing their ugly heads.
There’s no better way to combat holiday stress than giving to those in need. The holidays are stressful for people in ways I cannot even imagine. My stress is still valid but it’s nothing in comparison to not being able to give my son a Christmas gift or spending the holiday in a hospital bedside with a sick loved one. It doesn’t have to be anything huge. You can volunteer your time, money, or both.
I grew up with the tradition of donating to Toys for Tots and I plan on continuing that tradition with my family. Each year we go to the Disney store and buy a bunch of presents for the little ones and drop them off at a firehouse accepting the donations. It keeps my holiday stress in check because it reminds me how great I have it and I feel like I’m doing something to make others' holidays more blessed and joyful.
Cherish each holiday season:
As mentioned in previous posts I’m striving to focus on my blessings and not stressors. I’m taking the time to enjoy the little things like looking at the beautiful holiday cards we receive from family and friends. Or enjoying the process of filling my husband's and son’s stockings with cute presents.
Now that I have a child the holiday season feels so much more joyful. This has motivated me to bring back the holiday traditions that brought me happiness as a child so that Nate can grow up enjoying a carefree and fun holiday season as well. This includes remembering those I’ve lost and being thankful my family is happy and healthy, something devoid of many people's holidays.
By incorporating some of these holiday habits your resolution list will feel much more manageable. You won’t feel like you’re dying for a clean slate as soon as 2016 begins. It’s important to start change and nourish ourselves now not later. And per our holiday card:
There's more where this came from...don't forget to type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.