The holiday season has now descended upon us and although it can be a magical time filled with cheer, family memories, and joy, it can also bring unpleasant feelings of stress and fatigue. These feelings can start to overshadow our spirit of merriment and cause us to lose sight of the true meaning of this season.
It’s important to understand the different types of stress that can be placed on you and how it can be managed in a balanced way. Stress is a response to stimuli that we perceive as a threat, positive or negative. Different types of stress can happen such as unplanned events like last minute spending, being involved in an accident or in something dangerous. Other stress levels could also involve the anxiety of seeing family members that you had not seen in ages. Holiday party planning can also induce stress levels. The truth is that our bodies can’t recognize the difference between actual and perceived dangers or good versus bad stress. In both cases, the body goes into self-preservation mode where physiological changes occur such as heart palpitations, digestive issues, sleeplessness and anxiety, etc. So what are the stressors causing these physiological and psychological changes and how can you manage?
The first thing you can do to keep a low level amount of stress during the holiday season is to plan ahead. The saying “Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance” comes to mind. (Try to say that one five times fast). One of the sure ways to find yourself overwhelmed during this time is by failing to plan ahead and trying to do it at the last minute. Planning ahead, getting organized around tasks, and setting a plan of action to accomplish those tasks in incremental steps is the best way to get things done in a low-stress way. Another way to lessen the burden is to delegate some of those tasks. Remember that you don't have to do it all yourself and that it's okay to get help or even take things off your list altogether.
Identifying Stressors and Triggers
Another way to manage stress and energy during this season is to identify your stressors and triggers. What is it about the seasons that make you feel stressed? Is it overly high expectations of hosting the “perfect” holiday dinner? Is it going beyond your budget to buy the “perfect” gift? Is family tension arising, or the pressure to commit to every holiday gathering? Whatever it might be for you, it’s important to identify the source of your holiday woes so you can take the steps necessary to relieve these negative feelings and emotions and better manage them the next time they come.
Listen to your body
Once you’ve identified your triggers, listen to your body for cues as to when you might be starting to move into the feelings of stress and overwhelm. Do you start to feel your heart beating out of our chest? Do you find yourself with stomach aches and pains? Are you having trouble sleeping, feeling overly anxious and irritable? Recognizing these symptoms when they arise will allow you to take the steps to manage them and bring yourself back to center.
This brings us to the fourth way we can manage stress and fatigue during this season- engaging in some type of self-care or taking some quiet time. When you find your energy depleted from hours of Christmas shopping, or you find your emotions on 10 when you're usually at a 5 as you’re preparing your holiday dinner, stop for a moment and do something that will bring you back to a place of calm and peace. Whether that's stopping by a coffee shop for a warming cup of tea, taking a break from your shopping and stepping into the spa you saw as you walked into the mall or just finding a quiet space where you can sit for 5 minutes to close your eyes and breath, taking time to unplug and find your calm is a great way to manage stress and replenish your energy levels. So find what works for you and do it whenever you find yourself overwhelmed by your holiday demands. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, you will still feel the benefit.
Food Intake Management
The last thing you can do to manage holiday season stress and fatigue is to manage your sweet cravings. Yes! This means watching out for sweets and treats. Understandably, there will be moments we want comfort food during this time. It’s cold outside and we seek warmth and comfort, and what says comfort more than cookies, pies, and cakes? The added sugar in most holiday treats can not only zap you of our energy during the day but can also bring about feelings of stress from worrying about the added weight you put on as a result and how to get it off. One way we can alleviate this stress and not fall victim to the “sugar crash” is to be mindful of our portions and to swap out some of our baking ingredients to ones that are more beneficial for our body. This might mean allowing you one slice of pie and following it up with a nice warm cup of ginger tea instead of reaching for that second slice. Simply swap white flour for oat or almond flour in your favorite baking recipes to avoid that spike and crash of blood sugar that leaves you feeling sluggish as you forcefully try to move through your holiday to-do list.
To recap, the holidays should be a time of celebration where your energy is focused on enjoying time with your loved ones, spreading love, joy and good cheer. Although sometimes we can get lost in all the preparation that comes with the holidays, a busy holiday season is not necessarily a bad thing. There are some steps you can take to cope with holiday expectations and obligations to minimize undue stress and its impacts on your mind and body. Things like proper planning, becoming aware of your stressors, tuning into how these stressors make you feel physically and emotionally and engaging in some form of self-care are all things you can do to bring you back to a space where you can experience the true meaning of the season again.