Between the holiday office parties, potlucks, and family get-togethers, your stress levels can sometimes rise this time of year leaving you to feel depleted of holiday cheer and merriment. Yes, we’re all excited for what this time of year brings: fewer work hours, Secret Santa, Grandma’s Italian struffoli, and maybe one too many eggnogs. But on the flip side, we tend to get wrapped up and more freaked out by the few things we don’t enjoy this time of year.
Thoughts of “should I eat this or that”, “I don’t have time to cook something for the potluck”, “if I have to laugh at my boss’s joke one more time” and my favorite – seeing that distant relative you only see at Christmas and dreading the only topic of conversation she enjoys, which inevitably has to do with your personal love life. Every year it’s the same questions and accusations: “Still not married? What about kids?” As soon as the words roll of her tongue I immediately feel like Bill Murray’s character from the movie Groundhog Day and wonder if I am going to get through this.
Below are a few mindful nods and tips to keep your stress levels low, spirits high, and feeling jolly through the New Year.
Stop and Breathe…
OK, this may seem like a no brainer because it’s breathing and we do it without thinking (it’s an unconscious function.) However, when we’re super stressed out our body releases higher levels of cortisol, the ’stress hormone,’ which can mean a compromised immune system bringing on sneezing and sniffling, impaired cognitive performance, and breathing can become short and labored. When your stressors are triggered this holiday season, stop whatever you may be doing, take a seat, close your eyes, and come back to your breath. Intentional long deep breaths will immediately calm you down.
Take 5–10 deep breaths, inhale slowly, hold your breath for just a second at the top of your inhale, and then exhale deeply. Your blood pressure will go down and more oxygen will circulate throughout the body helping to clear your mind, relax any tense muscles, and calm your holiday stress.
…and maybe find more time to Sleep.
When you’re lying in bed, so desperate to sleep but all you can think about is your holiday to-do list, give the above breathing exercise a try and before you know it you’ll be dreaming of reindeers, snow, and elves.
Be sure to be kind to not only yourself and to family members but also to strangers. We can be our own worst enemy this time of year, from tallying calories from one holiday cupcake, or one too many cocktails, maybe its missing a workout because you’re running around town trying to make all your friends holiday parties. I say – be present, remain in the now and enjoy it. That means you have 30 days to enjoy and actively participate in the joys the holiday brings. Whatever stressful events you’re reliving or mean words you may be thinking toward yourself because those jeans are feeling a little snug, stop to find joy in the moment. Yes, for one month you may lose control of your typical work-life-eating schedule, but that’s ok, be kind and find pleasure in what could be the best-damn-cupcake-you’ve-ever-eaten.
Being home for the holidays is a great time to catch up with family and veg out for the weekend but it can also mean being nagged by mom or dad to empty the dishwasher, yet again, or help fold the laundry. Instead of gritting your teeth or pawning off the task to a sibling, get up and do it. This simple act of kindness is the best gift you can give your parents and yourself. You being home for the weekend is a mini housekeeping holiday for them so indulge them. She means well and remember: a happy family makes for a happy home.
The same goes for strangers. It can be as simple as holding the door for the person behind you or a quick hello and a smile. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and give it a try. The result may pleasantly surprise you.
Smile and say thanks.
It’s important to be thankful for all things big and small and that includes the good, the bad, and the messy holiday stress. These simple words and gestures we often take for granted can go a long way–quickly lifting the spirits of everyone around you, including yourself. What comes around goes around, so don’t be surprised to feel and experience the positive energy come back at you.
Stop, breathe, sleep, be kind, smile, say thanks, and repeat. This fail proof de-stressor cheat sheet will even keep holiday skeptics feeling lighter and perhaps more merry this holiday season.