What a classic holiday song famously calls “the most wonderful time of the year” can also be the most stressful. Between attending or hosting holiday parties, shopping for gifts, baking, cooking, entertaining, being with friends and family and managing your workload, this time of year can be incredibly overwhelming. If the approaching holiday season has you feeling extra stressed, you are not alone. The American Psychological Association found that almost half of American women experience increased stress during the holidays. Stress is known to be linked to a variety of health issues for women, and is cited by the US Department of Health and Human Services to contribute to headaches and migraines, depression and anxiety, heart problems, decreased libido, menstrual cycle problems, and trouble getting pregnant (check out this article for more information about the effects of stress on fertility).
With all the competing demands of this time of year, it can be challenging to take the time to check in with yourself and look out for your own wellbeing. With that in mind, here are our top 10 tips for managing holiday stress:
Acknowledge how you are feeling.
Just because it’s the holidays does not mean you have to be absolutely happy and joyful absolutely all the time. Give yourself the opportunity to admit that you may be feeling overwhelmed. Allowing these feelings the headspace to be acknowledged is the first step to managing the issue.
Making an effort to get organized will help you break down your to do list into more manageable chunks. If financial stressors have you losing sleep, make a budget to help you keep track of spending. If you’re overwhelmed by shopping for presents, make a list of everyone on your gift list, write down what you plan to get them, and then cross off each name when the present is bought to help you keep track. If you’re having a hard time managing your social obligations, when you RSVP to events make sure to be looking at your calendar. This helps you to a) immediately enter the date and time so you don’t forget and b) make sure you are not overcommitting yourself on a given day or in a given week.
Get some exercise:
It is well documented that getting your body moving can help reduce stress. Whether you’re doing a spin class, lifting weights, or just taking a walk around the block, physical activity will release endorphins which help minimize feelings of stress. If you aren’t sure where to start, here’s a relaxing yoga routine for stress relief.
Take some time for yourself:
Just because it’s the holidays does not mean self-care has to take a backseat. Take an hour for yourself and go get a massage, read a book, get a mani-pedi or watch TV. Whatever you choose, taking a moment to do something just because it makes you happy will help you center yourself and maintain a positive attitude.
Try to stick to your routine as best you can:
The holiday season can bring many disruptions to ordinary life making it even more important to try and stick to a routine, which Northwestern Medicine cites as one of the best ways to manage stress levels. Make sure you are trying to go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. Having consistency in your sleep cycle will help you feel more well rested and ready to take on the day. Be sure to eat regular meals, which will help manage overeating. Also, plan ahead. The Mayo Clinic recommends eating a healthy snack before you go to a holiday party so you don’t overindulge on treats or drinks.
Download an app like Headspace or Calm and try a deep breathing exercise. Whether it is your first time trying meditation or your fiftieth, taking time to concentrate on centering yourself and focus on your breathing is proven to help reduce stress.
Try some alternative stress-reduction methods:
Studies show that acupuncture can be an incredibly effective way of reducing stress over time. If you aren’t so into needles, making use of pressure points can be helpful. Try applying firm pressure to the fleshy place between your index finger and thumb for 30 seconds at a time. This is called the hoku spot in traditional Chinese medicine, and this technique can help reduce stress and relieve pain.
Make sure you are getting enough magnesium:
According to the NIH, most women do not get enough magnesium from their diets alone. Magnesium plays an important role in calming down your “fight or flight’ response system, so high levels of stress may indicate that your magnesium stores are depleted. For more information about how magnesium helps with hormone balancing, click here.
Remember that it’s okay to say no:
Sometimes you simply don’t feel up to going to three holiday parties in one night, and that’s okay! Your friends and family will understand if you can’t attend every activity. You never have to go to an event – it’s almost always a choice. Depending on how you’re feeling on a particular day, it may not be a choice you’re prepared to make. No one will call you the Grinch for being realistic about how much social energy you have to share with others.
Studies show that taking a few moments every day to list the things in life that you are grateful for can provide significant emotional and health benefits. Practicing gratitude lowers stress, decreases your risk of depression, and can reduce health complaints over time. In this season of abundance, take five minutes before you go to sleep to think about what is most important, whether it’s family and loved ones, the friendship of others, or the coming potential of a new day.
Take a minute to check in with yourself this holiday season. If your stress levels are hovering too high, hopefully, this list will help bring them down to manageable levels.
Happy and healthy holiday wishes to all!