If your stomach dropped and your blood pressure went up when you read that, you’re probably not alone: the holiday season seems to generate more stress than peace on earth, these days.
Ideally, winter holidays are all about rest, relaxation, feasting and friends & family time. Unfortunately, largely because of the society we live in, the season has become a scramble to buy presents, attend a plethora of parties, and survive time with extended family.
And then there’s all the less-than-healthy food and drink we partake of, simply to deal with the stress.
So how does one get off the holiday hamster wheel, and truly slow down their December to a pace that’s restful and restorative? We have a few ideas.
1. Stay in motion, not necessarily in action
Our number one recommendation is really no surprise: this December, try prioritizing exercise.
Get your heart rate up for 30 minutes, five times a week.
That may sound crazy with all the shopping and parties and year-end work on your plate, but trust us: exercising will increase your energy, decrease your stress, and improve your mood. It’s a solid foundation on which to build a December that actually fuels you, instead of wearing you down.
2. Max out your benefits
Self-care is especially important when our schedules are full, and visiting your paramedical practitioner of choice is a great way to show your body some love, and ward of the impact of stress.
3. Give presence, not presents
The number one stressor during the holidays may be visiting family (see below), but buying gifts for that family is a close – and anxiety-inducing – second.
This year, why not take the pressure off? Set up a secret Santa with your family or friend group. Agree that you’ll keep gifts under a certain dollar amount. Agree to only give experiences, or homemade goodies. Maybe even agree to skip the gift altogether, and focus on having fun together, instead. Whatever route you want to go, it’s possible to entirely avoid the malls this year – how relaxing does that sound?!
4. Quality (over quantity) time
It’s been statistically shown that the highest rates of domestic violence occur over the winter holiday season. We think this is tragic, for obvious reasons.
While an extreme example, these stats indicate the pressure cooker that the holidays can create in families: there’s an enormous amount of pressure to come together despite circumstances, and not always to everyone’s benefit. While most of us can attest to loving and caring deeply for our families, few would argue that a week together under one roof is more than enough time.
To avoid any blow-outs, figure out what your actual limits are, and stick to them. Focus less on the amount of time you spend with family, and more on the quality of that time. Know that after two days with Dad you’re ready to scream? Plan to head home before the breaking point – and notice how much more relaxed you get to be in his company.
There’s always quite a bit of conversation (especially at health clinics) about what the holidays does to one’s waistline. We’ve likely all been guilty of creating a strict eating or drinking plan for December, and then totally ignoring it as soon as the season gets into full gear.
We have a radical suggestion for you this holiday season: throw out the plan, and eat and drink what you want to eat and drink.
Think about it: if you’ve implemented the suggestions above, chances are you’re not totally stressed out, and hence not eating or drinking to cope with anxiety. Which means you might just be able to let you guard down and indulge a little.
It’s called the festive season for a reason – let yourself enjoy yours!