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The holidays are like finals for adults—you spend weeks preparing in anticipation, all leading up to a few days of stress, and then go time for the big event. Holidays can be a stressful time of the year, to say the least.
But what is stress? According to the Mental Health Foundation, “stress is the feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure. Stress is our body’s response to pressure [and] is often triggered when we experience something new, unexpected or that threatens our sense of self, or when we feel we have little control over a situation.”
During the holidays, stress can come from hustle and bustle of cooking, buying gifts, traveling, being around family and friends, or a combination of all of these.
For many, this year is one of the first holiday seasons spent with more than a small group in nearly two years. It’s important to plan ahead and continue healthy habits to combat any holiday stress. Continue reading for tips on how to effectively combat holiday stress this year.
How to Support Your Mental Health
Before the holiday season, check in with yourself. Take care of your mental health before, during, and after the holiday season with these tips.
- Set boundaries with yourself and others. Be realistic in what you can commit to.
- Organize your schedule to see what you need to do and where you need to be.
- Acknowledge your emotions. By facing your feelings, you become mindful of mental health and better equipped to overcome stress.
- Continue regular exercise. Routine exercise has many benefits. It makes you feel better, supports your immune system, reduces stress, and strengthens your body.
- Get plenty of sleep. Not sleeping enough can take a toll on mental health and energy levels during the holidays. Make time to rest.
- Budget holiday spending ahead of time. Stick with it to avoid overspending and going beyond your means.
- Socialize with friends and family members. Isolating yourself when you feel stressed can sometimes lead to depression. Take time to see loved ones and friends; reach out when you need support.
- Take 15 to 30 minutes a day to implement mediation, deep breathing, or yoga. These activities help keep you focused, present, and can realign you when feeling overwhelmed.
- Avoid drama using these methods from Psychology Today to steer conversations away from any heated topics.
- Implement boundaries by saying no. It can be easy to get swept away by requests and one-off events that pop up during the holidays. Avoid spreading yourself too thin by turning down activities you don’t have time for.
This year, put your mental health first to help you have a healthier, stress-free holiday season. Implement these tips to support your mental health. Remember it’s okay if the season doesn’t go according to plan. Mistakes are bound to happen. Reduce the pressure of having a flawless season and take the days as they come.
What are the Signs of Stress?
Our bodies and emotions are affected by stress differently. Here are a few signs and symptoms you may experience when feeling stressed:
- Anger or aggression
- Digestive problems
- Heart palpitations
How Can You Manage Stress?
Sometimes stress is unavoidable or pops up even when we try to combat it. That’s OK. Have strategies on hand to combat brain fog and stress before things feel too overwhelming.
When you feel stress rising, pause and ask yourself, ‘What is stressing me out?’ Sometimes it’s helpful to write things out, make a list, or vocalize the stressor. Once you know if a situation or person is the source of stress, you’ve already taken the first step towards managing the stress.
Next, ask yourself how you manage stress when it comes up? Be honest when evaluating stress reaction patterns. Do you get headaches or stomach aches? Do you feel moodier with friends or family? Do you turn to food or alcohol to cope? Whatever your initial reaction may be, once identified, this will help you understand the next right steps to take and help you be aware of your patterns.
Changing these behavior patterns doesn’t happen overnight. Instead of trying to change your patterns all at once, address them one by one to make things feel manageable.
Support yourself with healthy habits: eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep to help manage stress. If things feel overwhelming, don’t hesitate to reach out to friends, family, or a professional for help.
Healthy Eating During the Holidays
The holidays are known to be filled with delicious sweet treats and carb-heavy foods. Don’t deny yourself of partaking in yummy holiday traditions, but continue healthy habits throughout the holiday to feel your best. Continue healthy eating habits to feel better during the season with these tips.
- Have a plan ahead of time. Before partaking in delicious meals around the holidays, have a strategy around making healthy choices.
- Keep up your eating routine. Don’t skip meals or eat at different times to help keep blood sugar levels steady and avoid overeating.
- Balance your plate with healthy options and holiday treats. It’s okay to divulge in your favorite dessert, but consider cutting back on carbs to balance eating what you love with healthy habits.
- Offer to bring a healthy dish to events.
- Outsmart the buffet by using a small plate—it will fill up faster with your favorite foods and help you avoid overeating.
- Start the meal by eating vegetables. And eating slowly.
- Reduce alcohol intake.
- Getting a full night’s sleep helps your body maintain blood sugar so you are less likely to graze mindlessly through the day.
- Opt for pumpkin pie over pecan—it has at least one third less calories.
- Exercise in smaller, more manageable increments (Walking for at least 11 minutes a day can have dramatic benefits!)
For more healthy eating habit tips, read our article on how to eat healthy on a budget—and Happy Holidays!