The week leading up to the holidays tends to be a whirlwind — excitement, anxiousness, lots of to-dos — and before we know it, the big days have come and gone. How can we slow down, enjoy each moment, be more present, and manage stress better? Ahead, a few simple tweaks and back-to-basics reminders to help fight stress and to ensure you’re feeling the peace and joy of the season each day.
You Can’t Always Prevent Stress, But You Can Plan on How to Manage It
Stress is often inevitable. Curveballs come in from out of nowhere; people get sick, plans get canceled or changed, crazy stuff gets thrown on your plate — you know how it is. Even if you plan for a serene holiday, there are so many things that can elicit a stress response. We can’t always control our circumstances, but we can control our reaction. Here are some small, manageable things you can do to keep your stress levels to a minimum.
5 Hacks to Fight Stress
#1 Remove Obstacles Between You and Your Workouts
This idea might seem abstract, but it’s pretty simple. Remove any barriers, obstacles, friction — whatever you want to call it — between you and your workouts.
What this means: if something feels overwhelming, too complicated, or like it’s going to take unnecessary energy, modify. Overslept and short on time? Do something for 15 minutes. Or 10 minutes. Can’t get to the studio or gym because of road closures (or gym closures)? Work out in your living room (or in the office). Can’t find your equipment? Do a bodyweight workout. Not feeling up for HIIT? Try yoga. Schedule a mess? Do 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night.
To help fight stress during the busy holiday week (and beyond), make your routine as uncomplicated as possible, so you can work out any time, anywhere. This will give you the stress-relieving, anxiety managing movement you need, no matter what life throws your way.
#2 Take Breaks When You’re Feeling Frazzled
We know it seems counterintuitive, but the second you start to feel overwhelmed and like you have too much on your plate, take a step back. While you might have the inclination to push through and get everything done and off your list, but that’s usually not how it works out.
Once you feel that overwhelming sensation creep in, take a beat. Meditate for five minutes. Lock yourself in the bathroom away from your kids and do some deep breathing — even just for sixty seconds. Turn your phone off for 20 minutes, and go for a walk. Take a 30-minute break and do a cardio blast. Pause, stretch, and reset. Repeat this as much as you can.
Have you ever been in such a rush to get somewhere, you didn’t fill your gas tank because you didn’t think you had time — and then you ran out of gas? Imagine your body is that car. You might think you don’t have time to refuel, but it’s better to be a little late — and replenished — than to completely burn out.
Tip: This is a powerful tip that can be useful in so many areas of life, not just during the holiday season.
#3 Fight Stress With More Sleep: Add an Hour to Your Sleep Schedule
We can’t talk about ways to fight stress without talking about sleep. In fact, one of the worst things you can do to yourself during periods of stress is to skimp on sleep. Most Americans are chronically sleep-deprived (statistically, about 70 million of us), which negatively impacts our health in dozens of ways — chiefly our mental health.
Improving your sleep is such a simple (and free!!) way to improve your overall wellbeing, immunity, and stress-coping abilities. Go to bed one hour earlier every night this week to ensure you’re getting enough shut-eye to properly mitigate any anxious, overwhelming feelings this year. You’ll be a happier, more energized, more enjoyable version of yourself.
#4 Enjoy Holiday Treats … but Don’t Skimp on Nourishing Nutrients
Another fantastic way to enjoy the season more fully is to partake in some festive indulgences — eggnog, peppermint bark, mashed potatoes… whatever tickles your fancy. This will help you feel less deprived and more motivated to stay on track with your healthy eating goals (Seriously! It’s called goal-deviating behavior, and it’s a good thing!).
That said, while those yuletide treats are emotionally nourishing, they may not be the most optimal for your energy levels and mental health. That’s where — wait for it — *balance* comes in. Add in some superfood smoothies, tasty winter salads, fresh veggies, and warming soups into your diet this week. You’ll reap the benefits of nutrient-dense, wholesome foods (yay!) to feel energized and less stressed, and you’ll feel even better enjoying your decadent holiday treats. A win all around.
#5 Go With the Flow and Adjust Expectations
We’re not sure about you, but it’s pretty easy to set unrealistic expectations during the holiday season or have a picture-perfect version of how they should look and playout, on repeat in our minds. This year in particular is probably very, very different from holiday seasons past for many of us — so it’s important to not get caught up in the past and to ground yourself in the present moment. This isn’t as woo-woo as it sounds — the mindfulness will help you evade unnecessary stress that can bog you down with sadness and anxiety (in a time that is supposed to feel joyful).
A simple way to help fight stress is to let go of your expectations, and the second you catch yourself in an “I should’ve” or “this should” (anything “should”) statement, release it. Yes, feel your feelings (toxic positivity isn’t the best approach either!) but try your best to focus on gratitude, what you do have, what is surrounding you in the present moment, and all the good things in your life. Ideally, this will be a solid defense against excess stress.
We Wish You a Merry, Bright, Beautiful Holiday
Whether you try all five of these hacks to fight stress during this busy time of year, just one of them, or a few we didn’t list, we hope you find time to breathe it all in and enjoy the season that comes only once a year. Take good care of yourself, rest and recharge, and soak in a little peace. You deserve it.