‘Tis the most wonderful time of the year, or at least that’s what the marketing gurus tell you. For many people, the holidays are a time of celebration, good cheer, and enjoyable family traditions. For the other half, it’s utterly exhausting! You’re spending too much money, cooking ALL DAY, and attending countless get-togethers. All of which can contribute to increased levels of stress and anxiety.
Avoid the emotional rollercoaster this season, and use these five tips to stay happy, healthy, and energized.
You already know breathing is a necessary function of the body. Yada. Yada. But more importantly, your breath directly connects to your mood. When your feelings change, your breathing changes.
Research has proven that controlled breathing effectively lowers stress levels. Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, states, “There is a very direct relationship between breath rate, mood state, and autonomic nervous system state.”
In moments of stress, your breathing becomes quick and shallow.
Faster breaths trigger the sympathetic nervous system (the fight-or-flight) part of the brain. That can raise stress hormone levels, taking a negative toll on your overall well-being. On the other hand, when you slow your breathing down, it triggers the parasympathetic nervous system. The part of the brain that promotes a state of calmness, healing, and mental clarity.
Practice controlled breathing to help ease those bad feelings. The next time you’re feeling stressed, try inhaling for five counts and exhaling for another.
As B.K.S. Lyengar, one of yoga’s most prolific teachers’ states, “Breath is the king of the mind.”
Check out this breathing meditation by Deepak Chopra.
2. Get Moving
The easy thing about moving is you can do any form of physical activity and reap the benefits of reducing stress.
When you exercise, it increases a chemical in your brain called endorphins, which are feel-good neurotransmitters. Thus directly affecting your mood. In addition to reducing stress, physical activity improves focus, energy, and overall cognitive function.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, as little as 5 minutes of exercise a day can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
So, maybe on your lunch break, you take 10 minutes, even 30 minutes to walk or hop on a treadmill while watching one of your favorite shows.
If you want to get an extra dose of feel-good energy, exercise outdoors. The exposure to sunlight boosts your body’s vitamin D supply and increases the production of a chemical known as serotonin, which promotes feelings of happiness. So, get moving.
3. Prepare a Budget
The holidays are known for around the clock shopping, gift-giving, and spending. So it’s vital to make an extra effort to manage your finances and avoid financial anxiety.
Create your holiday budget early and set a spending limit. With well-defined boundaries, you become a more productive shopper and spend more cautiously. It’ll also help you prioritize what’s most important.
A lot of stress from the holidays can come from financial pressure. So try using one of these budgeting apps that track your spending: Mint, YNAB, or Albert. Another good idea is to buy holiday gifts year-round, so you don’t disrupt your monthly budget as much.
4. Think Positive
Positive thinking not only helps with managing stress, but it can also improve your overall health.
It’s important to note that positive thinking doesn’t mean you go around living your life with no cares in the world. Or you avoid any of life’s difficulties. It means you approach those less pleasant times more productively. Thus, creating better habits to cope with stress, especially during hardships.
Positive thinking begins with self-talk. These are the thoughts that run through your head. While some of these thoughts come from logic and reason, the others come from misconceptions you’ve created.
Studies show the benefits of positive thinking are huge. According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s a wide range of health benefits, including lower levels of distress.
Researchers believe people with a positive outlook experience more success, as positive thinking gives you more confidence to take more risks and handle failure better.
One way to practice positive thinking is to turn your negative self-talk into a positive one. For instance, instead of thinking there’s no way it’ll work out, you can think, I’ll try to make it work.
Once you understand the way you see things, you can make a conscious effort to look at those things differently. When stressed, you’re more likely to focus on what’s negative in your life. You can reverse this negative thinking by taking the time to remember what you’re grateful for. Remember, you can only have one thought in your head at a time – make it positive as much as possible.
5. Be Healthy-ish
The holidays are the time of the year when health usually slides. Food can be your best friend or worst enemy. Certain foods cause inflammation in your body and make your stress levels go up. Eating a well-balanced nutritious diet is essential for both your physical and mental health. As studies prove, foods can affect your mood, emotions, and psychological state.
Ultra-processed foods that contain chemical additives are the leading culprit to poor health. In an article from Harvard Medical School, they talk about how your diet can positively or negatively affect mental well-being.
It’s important not to forget the proper nutrients needed to fuel your body. The saying “you are what you eat” is the truth. The nutrients in the food you eat give your body support and function. These nutrients become the integrity of your body, everything from your skin and bones to your immune and digestive system. To feel your best, you must provide your body with the best food for it.
Your body is continuously rebuilding and repairing, from things such as exercise, pollution, disease, and even STRESS. Nutrient-rich whole foods help you function at optimal levels. That’s the power of nutrition. You can immediately change the way you look and feel by cleaning up your diet.
High-carb comfort foods and foods full of added sugar are popular during the holidays. The foods with added sugar give you a quick energy boost by raising your body’s blood sugar and insulin levels. But the pick me up is brief. What happens next is commonly known as a sugar low, or crash, as your blood sugar level quickly decreases. Having constant blood sugar swings can lead to quick-changing moods and energy levels.
Another commonly overlooked part of your health is your water intake. The body and blood are primarily made up of water. It’s critical to make sure you’re getting enough water because you’re constantly losing water.
Heightened emotions are common during the holidays due to increased stressors. So even if you’re usually a calm and coolheaded person, the holidays can still be a trying time. These practical tips can help you minimize and cope with your anxiety.