It's approaching that time of year again, the most wonderful time of the year! The holidays can be joyous, offering time to reconnect with friends and family. Yet, the reality is even something so positive can cause an untold amount of stress. As to-do lists get longer and the extra obligations start to add up, there is less time to do accomplish every task and normal routines go out the window removing any semblance of normal. As a result, we can be left feeling extra strung out and overwhelmed this time of year.
Left unmanaged, stress can take a serious toll on your physical and mental health. Here are a few tips to help you manage your stress this holiday season and beyond.
1. Identify Your Triggers
Think about the things or events that trigger stress for you during the holidays, then focus on one or two things you can do that will help you manage and reduce the stress. Having a game plan will set you up for success in combating unnecessary stress.
2. Make To-Do Lists
Once you have your priorities identified, make strategic to-do lists. Start by listing the smaller tasks at the top of the list and tackle them first. This way, you feel like you are accomplishing things. Also, spread tasks out over several days or even weeks. By dividing a longer list into multiple, smaller ones the experience becomes less overwhelming.
3. Be Realistic
Realize your limitations in time, finances, and health. Assess expectations of yourself and others. Things will not always go perfectly, and realizing this will help in letting go.
4. Set a Budget and Stick To It
You may feel pressured to buy and give gifts, but money worries are not worth the stress. Remember, less is more, and there are multiple ways to show your love and gratitude. Get creative! It's way more fun and fulfilling.
5. Identify Your Priorities and Establish Boundaries
Ask what is most important and valuable to YOU during the holidays and keep those a priority. Say no to less important ones, and ask for help when needed. This will help you from feeling like you are being pulled in all directions, as well as reduce the risk of feeling guilty or disappointed once holidays are over.
6. Cultivate Gratitude
Remember what the holidays are all about, it is a time to celebrate, and to be thankful and grateful all that we have. Both the Harvard Medical School and University of California Berkeley suggest practicing reflection and gratitude routinely to improve mood, relationships, and even physical well being. Now is a perfect time to start a gratitude journal or routinely meditating.
7. Take Care of Yourself
The most important thing you can do in times of stress is to take care of you, in both mind and body. Don't abandon healthy habits; stick with your daily routine and make it a priority. Make sure to get adequate sleep and exercise. Work to maintain a healthy diet full of leafy greens and stay hydrated. Take a breather and enjoy some warm herbal tea.
Acupuncture is a great way to relieve stress naturally. Studies from Georgetown University Medical Center have shown that acupuncture can lower blood hormone levels secreted by the adrenal glands (hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis, a.k.a HPA) which control reactions to stress and regulate processes like moods, emotions, immune system, digestion, and more. Sometimes our bodies need help relaxing and unwinding during stressful periods.
Stress can hurt your holidays, but more importantly, it can hurt your health! Therefore, it is important to practice preventative steps such as recognizing your triggers, taking care of yourself, being mindful of priorities, maintaining a realistic perspective, and developing a habit of thankfulness. Cheers to a stress-free holiday season and see you soon!