The holidays can bring joy and excitement, but it’s also not uncommon to experience stress, depression and anxiety at the same time. Dealing with shopping and running errands through crowds, holiday parties and social obligations, houseguests and relatives—these are all potential stressors.
While you may often feel pressure to keep spirits up and a smile on your face during the holidays, feelings of loneliness and isolation also can find themselves setting in—and this is okay. It’s okay to experience a range of emotions during the holiday season.
In our FMCA Health Coach Certification Program, we teach the importance of Mind-Body Medicine, which is the power of thoughts and emotions to influence physical health. Mindfulness is a tool that is used to assess a state of active, open attention on the present. When we are mindful, we are able to carefully observe our thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad.
Here are some mindful tips to help you manage holiday stress:
Keep Your Healthy Habits
Maintaining healthy habits during the holiday season will be one of your best defenses against stress. This means getting enough sleep, eating well—even at holiday parties—and staying physically active.
It also means maintaining what you can of your daily routine, like workouts, book club, or personal self-care time. Fit holiday obligations into your everyday routine rather than letting them upset your life.
The holiday season can be long and full of commitments. To help manage stress, make a list of what you expect from yourself, what others expect from you, and your responsibilities for the holidays. You may want to place them on a calendar to get a feel for what the coming months will look like. Get comfortable with the idea that you don’t have to do everything and everything doesn’t have to be perfect.
Similarly, accept that you may get sad or lonely, and that’s okay. If you’re coping with mental health concerns, they won’t go away just because of the holidays. Keep up your emotional health habits and apply them when possible to your new set of responsibilities. If you’re particularly overwhelmed, talk to your emotional health professional about how to handle everything that is on your plate.
The spirit of the season can sometimes lead even the most pragmatic people to over-commit their time. When you’re looking at your calendar or to-do list, be fair to yourself. Decide what’s most important to you, or where you most want to go, and allow yourself to say no to other demands on your time.
This goes for traditions as well. It’s perfectly acceptable for your traditions to change over time and to create new traditions to fit the evolving lifestyles of your family, your friends, and yourself. If a ritual causes disproportionate stress, consider forming a new one.
Despite what may seem like an influx of social interaction (trips to the mall, attending big family dinners, back-to-back holiday parties), feelings of loneliness and isolation can spike between October and January. Look for new ways to get social in your community, such as volunteering, or simply reach out to the people you care about and who care about you.
If you need more support or help with specific holiday tasks, ask your friends or family to get involved as well!
Take a Walk
A winter walk is not only an easy source of exercise when your schedule seems packed, but sunlight also offers a feel-good burst of serotonin and can help fight seasonal affective disorder. Furthermore, the rhythm and repetition of walking has a calming effect, decreasing anxiety and improving sleep.
Make Small Adjustments
The holiday season can seem full of big changes, so focus on little things that can help you relax. Take some time to unwind away from your phone. Disconnecting can provide some much-needed separation from the demands of people in your life, your calendar, and your to-do list.
Make a point to listen to your favorite music to help relax, or cook with more spices, which are associated with triggering endorphins. Small adjustments that won’t make or break your routine can be the little added boost you need to bring joy back to the holiday season.
While the holidays can be a stressful time, practicing mindfulness can make it possible not only to navigate the season, but to thrive and transform.
Published: December 17, 2021