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Holiday Survival Tips

 

The holiday season brings mixed emotions for many. For some, it’s their favorite time of year. For others, it brings feelings of sadness and loss. Seeing old friends and family members may be exciting or may bring up memories of disappointments.

 

There's so much to do at this time of year - shopping, mailing cards and gifts, cooking, baking, decorating, and more. And when you're in a rush, it's easy to get flustered.

 

But need it be this way? It need not. Before getting carried away this holiday season, here are some fun, quick wellness tips that can promote a healthy, stress-free holiday season!

 

 

Tip #1 - Take Time for Yourself

All of the family and festivities can bring up a lot of emotion and it's good to give yourself some extra love this time of year, so do something that makes you feel good, and do it often.

One simple trick to find time for yourself no matter how busy things get is to schedule a very specific activity that will help you unwind. Small things you could do for yourself are exercising, going for a walk/run, journaling, meditating, etc. Find an activity that will help you to recharge your batteries and relax.

Make sure to put it into your calendar. When you plan your week, schedule your activities as some of your major to-dos, setting aside time for them in the same way you would set aside time for a meeting or a project you need to work on. Instead of penciling in an hour of “downtime” on Wednesday night, write “catch up on my favorite blogs with a cup of coffee” or “take a bubble bath.” Try this for a few weeks and feel the difference in your approach to the holidays!

 

 

Tip #2 - Keep it Simple

Ever heard of the KISS method? Keep It Simple, Stupid. This cannot be truer than during the holidays, when our lives become complicated by the expectations of ourselves and others. How can you keep it simple during the holidays?

When decorating, focus on keeping your space clutter-free and easy to maintain. Take time every day to declutter your home and office. A clutter-free space has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety!


Instead of zooming around to twenty stores to get the perfect gift, think about simplifying by purchasing items online or planning your trips out to maximize their efficiency and decrease the stress.

The holidays are overwhelming and if we aren’t careful the sensory overload can cause us un-due stress and decrease our enjoyment of the season. Take a second to evaluate what matters to you the most during the holidays and focus on those things. If you receive information or opportunities that don’t fit into that scope, decline or omit it.
 
Finally, do more with less. Whether it be money, food, or anything else we over-indulge in or use too much of during the holidays, now is the time to practice restraint. Instead of cooking 10 items for the holiday meal, consider pairing it down to only what can be reasonably eaten by the people attending (making some room for leftovers of course!). The more you can do with less, the simpler your holiday life will be!

 

 

Tip #3 - Be Grateful

The definition of gratitude is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Gratitude can be used as fuel for self-care through the holiday season. Evidence and scientific studies demonstrate numerous ways that practicing gratitude affects well-being—emotionally, socially, physically, spiritually (e.g., Blyth, 2017). Gratitude is not just about your attitude; it is a planned practice, a way to actively focus.


Try some “re-framing”. For example, on could reframe their resentment regarding a long commute by becoming grateful that the commute offers self-care time for podcasts, books on tape, self-reflection, or just more time to yourself.  Using gratitude as a frame alters one’s perspective and can make a resentful commute to work into a commute you are grateful to have in your daily routine. Allow yourself to hear ungrateful thoughts in your head, but then follow it up with 3 things you are grateful for.

Practicing gratitude can be a mindfulness practice of just simply paying attention. Be mindful of the things that you notice on a day to day basis that bring you joy (the cooler weather, taking in the fall tree colors, or appreciating your body for getting you through the physical demands of the day). Appreciate each moment by taking note of all that is around you and focus on the present moment. Take in all of you are tasting, seeing, smelling, touching, and what you hear. In doing this we ensure ourselves of not missing a single blessing. You may also find this has quite the calming effect. Another way to practice gratitude is keeping a gratitude journal. Try to list five things daily you are grateful for. Going around the dinner table and discussing your gratitude’s with loved ones can be a great activity as well.   
Reference: Blyth, L. (2017). The power of gratitude. New York, NY: CICO Books.


Tip #4 - Practice Healthy Boundaries

The holidays are one of the times when it is easiest to over extend yourself. However, the true meaning of the holidays is about spending quality time with those you care about.  When you are overwhelmed and burnt out it is impossible to be in the moment and appreciate the time spent together!

One step in creating healthy boundaries is awareness. When saying “yes” to an obligation do you feel excited? Or, is it bringing you anxiety? If saying yes to a plan is causing you more stress then positive emotions it is ok to say “I am feeling overwhelmed by my commitments this holiday season, but I do want to catch up with you. Can we plan a coffee date for January when things calm down?”

Another important part of creating boundaries is priority setting. When you find yourself adding to your do list, and getting overwhelmed, stop and ask yourself “what is important to me?”. You may not be able to bake eight batches of cookies and go to the office holiday party, so when it comes down to it, remind yourself that it is okay to pick what matters to you.

Gracefully saying no to things we cannot handle is an important part of our mental health during the holiday season.

 

 

Tip #5 - Take a Deep Breath

We often take our breath for granted. It is something we do without thinking consciously about it. However, once we take the time to bring awareness to our breath, it can result in many positive health outcomes. Two of the instant benefits of being mindful of your breath during high stress times such as the holidays are alleviating anxiety and negative emotions, and immediately lowering stress levels by bringing us back in to the moment, and out of our human fight or flight response to stress.

There are endless breathing exercises that can be used in any stressful situation you may find yourself in during the holiday season.

Politics come up at the dinner table? Try inhaling for a count of four through your nose and exhaling for a count of four through your nose.

Overwhelmed with holiday traffic? Try squared breathing where you in vision a square in your mind and inhale for four counts, hold your breath in for four counts, exhale for 4 counts, and hold your breath out for four counts to correspond with the four sides of a square.

A good way to prevent stress in advance is to bring a meditative breathing practice into your daily routine. Just ten minutes a day of mediation (a focus on breath) is linked to a large array of positive health and mental health outcomes such as focus, stress relief, self-awareness, and impulse control. There are many smart phone apps and websites that offer free guided meditation.


 

Tip #6 - Giving Back

Give back this holiday season by donating your time.  You’ll gain just as much from the experience as those you’re helping.  According to research from the University of Exeter Medical School in the U.K., volunteering can improve one’s mental health and even help you live longer.

When you share small acts of kindness, you are giving back more than you might think. You spread cheer to someone else. You elevate your own mood. You inspire more giving. Giving can have a ripple effect. The recipient of your act of kindness benefits, and so do any witnesses.

So here are some ideas:
1. Call a friend you haven’t talked to all year.
2. Spread good news about someone.
3. Collect cans of food and donate them to a food bank.
4. Gather up your old coats and donate them to Goodwill or a homeless shelter.
5. Run an errand for someone.



 

 


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