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  • Writer's pictureLisa Harris

Holidays causing you hassle? 5 Tips to help you stress less through the holidays

Twinkling lights, festive decorations, time spent with loved ones, nostalgic music and movies, and lots of delicious treats – there’s a certain magic that can only be found around the holidays that we look forward to every year. But there’s a side of the holidays that many of us dread: extreme stress. This is especially true for those of us who are responsible for making that “magic” happen for everyone else.

As if we don’t already feel a lot of stress and pressure all year long, the holidays bring it to a whole new level. That pressure can turn the holidays from joyous to joyless. Suddenly, you’re not just wearing the hat of a parent, spouse, sibling or friend, you’re also wearing your “Santa” hat too.

Buying presents, balancing family and religious obligations, maintaining family traditions, keeping the house clean and preparing for company, mailing packages and cards, cooking special meals – for many of us, the holidays end up being less a time of celebration and more an impressive balancing act. We often get so busy worrying about taking care of everyone else that we end up forgetting to take care of ourselves.

If the holidays weren’t already stressful enough, we now have Covid thrown into the mix. 2020 has been a year of uncertainty, fear, change and profound loss. The reliable routines and carefully made plans that would normally help us cope have been thrown out the window. With so much on our plates to deal with, it’s more critical than ever that we don’t neglect ourselves. Taking time and learning to practice self-care can help stress become more manageable, give us added perspective, help us stay healthy, optimistic and will make the holidays more enjoyable - not just for your family, but for you too!

Of course, self-care is more than lighting a scented candle and taking a bath (though that’s nice too!). A commitment to eating healthy, exercising regularly, and practicing mindfulness are all important aspects of a well-rounded self-care routine.

Not sure where to get started? Below are some tips for de-stressing that will carry you through the holidays and into a more productive and happier 2021.

1. Get more – and better – sleep

We’ve all been there. We know how sluggish, stressed, and sometimes down-right irritable we can get from a poor night’s rest, so you don’t need me to tell you why getting enough sleep is so critical. That being said, planning to get enough sleep is a lot easier than actually doing it. Sometimes we only have six hours available for sleep, so how can we ensure that those six hours are not wasted? If you haven’t been sleeping well, first ask yourself why. Is stress and anxiety keeping you awake? Did you have too much caffeine before bed? Are there just not enough hours in the day to get everything done?

There are some simple actions you can take to get more - and better - sleep. Getting quality sleep starts with a developing a consistent routine. Figure out what bedtime works best for your lifestyle and try your best to stick to that schedule. Minimize the distractions before bed to make it easier for your body to wind down. You may have heard that it’s best to put your phone in another room when you go to bed, but we all know that’s easier said than done. Instead, take the simple action to disable notifications for the hours you plan to sleep, limiting any middle-of-the-night disturbances. We all have different priorities, but sleep should be on all our lists.

2. Make a commitment to quiet time

In today’s technologically driven world, we’re constantly surrounded by ‘noise,’ and the low hum of chaos. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, over-stimulated—and at some point, just plain numb. That’s why it’s so important to take time to clear your thoughts and practice mindfulness.

I’ll admit, it’s not easy to get in the routine of doing “nothing,” and that’s okay. Mindfulness does not have to mean sitting on the ground and meditating. I like to think of “mindfulness” as taking a moment to actively be with your thoughts. Put down the devices, grab a cup of tea, go outside if you can, and just breathe as you appreciate your surroundings. Too cold or rainy to go outside? Snuggle up on your sofa and enjoy the coziness of your home. The important thing is you put down your screen (you’ll notice that’s a recurring theme behind most of these tips). Whether you do this for a minute or you do it for ten, taking a moment to yourself without any distractions helps to recenter your thoughts, giving less room for stress and anxiety and more room for peace and gratitude.

3. Get the most bang for your buck(et) of sweat

It’s no secret that regular exercise is a key component to having a healthier body and mind, but with so much time spent in quarantine this year, it’s been a challenge to stay active. Between working from home, taking care of your family, and now the added stress of the holidays, you might be finding it difficult to try and squeeze in a workout every day as you balance your time (and those extra holiday lbs!).

Exercise should be a part of your day that relieves stress, not adds to it. Many of us fall into the mindset that if we’re not going hard, we might as well stay home. We set tight, restrictive goals for ourselves, then beat ourselves up when we inevitably miss a day. That all-or nothing-mindset does more harm than good.

It’s important to make time for your physical health, but it doesn’t have to be as complicated as we often make it. We don’t need to use those fancy, complex weight machines to get stronger, we don’t need to do cardio for an hour each day to work up a sweat, and we don’t need expensive gym-memberships to become more active.

Sometimes all we need is a good walk to get our bodies moving. Or, if you’re looking to get stronger without having to dedicate hours to the gym, invest in an affordable set of hand weights or resistance bands that you can use from the comfort of your own couch. Want to sweat more? Put on some music and throw in some dance moves while cleaning the house or cooking dinner.

These things may sound silly or obvious, but the point is you don’t have to go from zero to a hundred to get healthier or be more active. Small things sprinkled throughout your busy day can make a meaningful difference in your overall health and wellbeing.

4. Make time for family (and make them make time for you)

This may sound like a no-brainer, but life is busy, and many of us get so wrapped up in trying to please our family and finding them the perfect gifts that we overlook the importance (and simplicity) of spending time with them.

Much like fitness or mindfulness, getting the family to do an activity together doesn’t have to be complicated. There are some easy (and covid-safe) ways to spend more time together. It can be as simple as putting the phones away taking a walk together. Or, if you’d like to do something holiday themed, why not take a drive to admire the Christmas lights around your town?

You do so much for your family, it’s okay to ask them to give a little in return. When you’re cooking those special holidays meals, have your kids pitch in and use it as an opportunity to teach them the family recipes. Getting your family involved not only takes some of the weight off your shoulders, it lets you spend time together and make memories that last longer than any gift under the tree.

5. Don’t forget to treat yourself

We all try our best to be healthier, more active, and to make our loved ones happy, but we’re only human. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that things don’t always go the way we plan. Sometimes stress is unavoidable, and in those moments, the best advice I can give is to be kind to yourself. Also, don’t be afraid to treat yourself! Have a piece of chocolate, let yourself relax, and try your best to remember what the holidays mean to you.

Whether it’s with dessert, exercise, or just a few moments to yourself, I hope you decide to prioritize yourself this holiday season. Let these tips help you find the joy again and start the new year off ready to tackle anything. 2020 has been a long, challenging year, and I wish you all health and happiness as we enter 2021. You deserve it!

I want to hear from you! What are your tips for staying sane and healthy during the holidays?

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