How To Combat Stress During The Holidays

Posted by Christine moghadam

For many of us, the holidays aren’t just the most wonderful time of the year but also the most stressful. With all the parties and present shopping and travel and family members you only see once a year, it can be pretty easy to feel overwhelmed. But as common as stress is, that doesn’t mean that it’s inevitable. With proper planning and prioritization, it might even be avoided all together. Here are a few tricks you can use to show stress to the door and master the holiday season.

 

Give yourself permission to feel stress

First, and foremost: accepting that you’re stressed can help you to be better prepared to fight it. Not recognizing stress is like pressing down the lid on a boiling pot – the pressure is just going to keep going up. Instead, acknowledge it so that you can move on productively.


Say no more often

The holidays can put you in a giving mood, but you need to be realistic with what you can and can’t handle. Saying no more often will make your life less stressful for you (and for the people who have to deal with you!).

But “no” doesn’t have to mean that you’re missing out. You can also find happy mediums. Instead of hosting the party and making all the food, turn it into a potluck. If you’ve got an invite to a gathering that conflicts with something else, say you’ll drop by with dessert at the end.

Don’t overindulge

While the holidays are all about living your best life, which naturally includes all of the cookies and homemade comfort foods you can imagine, that doesn’t mean that you should throw all caution to the wind. Because even though all of that might be great for the soul, let’s be honest here, too much of anything can leave our insides feeling pretty nasty. Instead, feel free to enjoy the moment during your parties and get togethers, but don’t use the holidays as an excuse to eat the things you wouldn’t normally for an entire month straight. Between your social gatherings, be sure to fuel up on foods that will help you get through the holidays feeling healthy and energized.

Aside from you usual healthy eating recommendations, here are a couple of foods that can specifically help with stress reduction:

  • Nuts - Nuts are full of B vitamins, which act as natural mood boosters.
  • Dark leafy greens - Greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens are full of magnesium, which can lower the stress hormone cortisol and improve your blood pressure. 
  • Oatmeal - Warm and nourishing, oatmeal is like a hug in a cup. Aside from just feeling good as you're eating it, oatmeal can also help you to feel good all day long since carbohydrates help your body make serotonin, one of your body's most powerful mood stabilizers.
  • Salmon - The omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon have anti-inflammatory properties that can help regulate stress.
  • Dark Chocolate - If you needed more reason to eat chocolate, you're welcome. The antioxidants in dark chocolate help your blood vessels to relax, which can lower blood pressure and improve circulation.


Maintain your routine

Often, your routine is the first thing to go when your calendar starts getting crowded. Making sure to stick to your routine will offer some much-needed stability during the holidays. Keeping to your routine means that no matter what else is happening that day, you know you’ll get something right! Plus, sticking to a pre-determined routine will also reduce decision fatigue.

 

Keep Active

In the words of Elle Woods, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don't kill their husbands. They just don't.” And while endorphins aren’t exactly in charge of making you feel happy, they definitely help! What they actually do is block pain. In the case of exercise, endorphins are released to help you keep going. As an added bonus, they also offer some release from the mental pains of stress. It doesn’t even take very much to get things going – just five minutes of aerobic exercise can have a positive impact on your mental wellbeing.

Try Supplements

If you’re finding that you maybe don’t have enough time for these other methods, or maybe that they aren’t effective enough, a supplement or two can really take your stress relief to the next level. Of course, always check with your doctor before taking new supplements, especially if you’re taking other medications.

  • Melatonin - If you’re one of those people who loses sleep over your daytime stresses, melatonin could be good for you. Melatonin is a hormone that affects your body’s circadian rhythm, and your body naturally makes more of it in the evening. More mild than sleeping pills, melatonin is a better first SOMETHING if you’re hoping to avoid side effects. And when it comes to melatonin, less is more – just 1-3 milligrams is enough.
  • 5-HTP - 5-HTP helps the body produce serotonin, which, in turn, plays a key role in mood and sleep regulation. Scientific studies have shown that 5-HTP not only improves sleep quality by helping your body to produce melatonin, it also promotes relaxation and relieves anxiety. In supplement form, 5-HTP comes from a seed and can take up to a week of regular use to see benefits.
  • CBD - CBD is the supplement of the moment. CBD (also known as cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant. Unlike its more notorious counterpart, THC, CBD makes you feel relaxed and happy without feeling “high.” It does this by affecting your body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays a key role in regulating a ton of different functions like sleep, appetite, mood, memory, and even motor control. CBD is generally taken as an oil, spray, or vape.

Do some yoga

We all know that yoga is good for your physical and mental health, and keeping up a regular practice can help to reduce stress in a number of ways (see the points on routine and exercise, for example). Even if you don’t have time to go to your normal classes, there are a ton of options online for home practice, or you could even squeeze in a few poses. Some poses that are especially good for stress management are:

  • Eagle pose (garudasana) – Release stress by concentrating on your balance. Eagle pose will help you to release tension in your shoulders, legs, and back.
  • Standing forward fold (uttanasana) – Standing forward fold relieves stress, fatigue, and eases anxiety. Focus on the stretching feeling in your hamstrings, calves, and hips.
 
  • Child’s pose (balasana) – Child’s pose has positive impacts on the nervous and lymphatic systems. As you come into this pose, let your mind rest and muscles relax.
  • Corpse pose (savasana) – When you’re fully present, corpse pose can allow your body to lower its blood pressure and quiet its nervous system. Let yourself fall into a deep state of rest while holding this pose for 3-5 minutes.

With these tips in mind, we hope you have a happy and restful holiday season!