5 Tips for Holiday Stress

The holiday season is upon us, ready or not. No matter which holidays you celebrate, I hope you enjoy it with friends, family, fun, and festivities. All of that merrymaking can bring with it added stress or strain. Keep your season bright by practicing a few self care tips.

1. Make Sleep A Priority

Clients, friends, and family all know how much I focus on getting good, quality sleep, every night. I don’t think I can stress sleep enough, it is a natural mood and emotion regulator, a healer. Our bodies need quality sleep to have physical health. Our minds and beings need sleep to have that joie de vivre, for emotional balance, and good mental health. Plan your parties, travel, and commitments around your sleep schedule, not the other way around. Consistent, quality sleep is best.

Poor sleep is linked with mental health concerns and can make anxiety, depression, trauma, or stressful relationships even more challenging. Much like a delightful, well-behaved child who throws a temper tantrum after missing a nap, our mental and emotional health is comprised when we don’t sleep. Even if everything is going well and there is anticipation of fun, exciting events to come, poor sleep can rob of us of enjoying life and contribute to holiday stress.

2. Keep An Exercise Routine

Keep an individualized exercise routine to regulate physical health, hormone balance, emotional, and mental health. We now know, without exception, that our bodies were made to move. A sedentary lifestyle is hazardous. Even as few as 10 minutes of daily exercise can boost mood and help reduce or prevent depression. It is a mistake to skip your workout, gym, walk, or stretch. Even fun events add an element of pressure or stress to our lives, and exercise assists in keeping us balanced. You put yourself in a poor position if you add stress then avoid the tools at your disposal to manage it. Take opportunities to walk, stretch, move, dance, workout, play sports, or get to the gym. Staying physically active helps everything else fall into place.

For some people, exercise can be just as effective as taking medication to reduce anxiety or depression. Physical movement assists the body in regulation of important hormones and neurotransmitters that are linked with mood and emotional health. Exercise is an effective tool in managing anxiety, depression, stress, and can improve sleep.

3. Pause Before Committing

Typically I encourage everyone to say YES to life and get out of their comfort zones. The holiday season can present great opportunities for connecting, meeting new friends, or simply having a great time. But to preserve your overall health and emotional well-being, it can be helpful to pause prior to making commitments. Ask yourself if you have time, energy, or desire to be involved, to assist, or attend. Ask yourself if you can preserve your sleep and exercise while adding in this one more commitment. This season comes with additional work, family, financial, religious, and emotional opportunities…just pause to make sure you are commiting to the opportunities that are best for you.

4. Set Financial Limits

Speaking of additional financial commitments, it can be helpful to set a firm limit based on the reality of your financial situation. While a slim lucky few receive a holiday bonus in the form of monies from their place of work, most do not. The holiday season can present fun events, extra dinners out, socialization, and gift giving. Be realistic about your disposable income. A splurge now is not worth a year of paying off a credit card or the additional pressure of debt. If your family has traditionally exchanged expensive gifts, have a discussion this year to manage expectations and strategize budget friendly ways to enjoy the season. The people who love you want to enjoy life with you, and most don’t actually care if they receive a cashmere scarf or a popcorn ball.

5. Gift Yourself Gratitude

Building positive pathways in your brain contributes to happiness, emotional balance, and health. Consider what you are grateful for and think upon it for a moment or two, everyday. Even better, start a gratitude journal. Feel free to journal out your thoughts and feelings about what is going well, what and who you are grateful for, and luxuriate in the positive glow. Not big on writing? You can use the “one word method” and jot down a word per day on a paper calendar, your bullet journal, your electronic calendar, or an object such as a pumpkin, a glass vase, ribbon, or a wall. The one word method can create a beautiful visual reminder that can be used as a tool to motivate or give yourself a boost.

Join with your partner or family to build a holiday gratitude item, then use it to set your new year’s goals for the next year. You can share the gratitude with your family (kids love this) and help teach positive life and emotional skills by including the ones you love in the creation of a gratitude object. Kids’ answers can be pretty funny. When the new year comes, read through all of the responses and set goals to bring in more of the things that you appreciate and help you feel gratitude in the coming year.

About the Author
AnnMarie Nelson, LMFT 97177 offers in-person psychotherapy services from her office located in beautiful Mission Viejo, California, and offers web based services for those living in California. She uses evidence based practices to treat trauma, PTSD, anxiety, and depression, as well as life transitions such as death and divorce. Her office welcomes your call at 949.445.0510.

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