It's crazy out there, but it doesn't need to be in here!
With all the hustle and bustle of the season, it is easy to get lost in the chaos. Holiday shopping, baking, and buying are all in full swing. Marketers are vying for your attention and dollars. And your to-do-list is probably a mile long!
At this point it's important to remind yourself of what really matters this season. Your family probably won't remember most of the gifts you give them, but they will remember the atmosphere in the home leading up to Christmas. They won't remember the perfect dinner, baked goods, and presents if you are stressed-out and crabby.
So, take time now to look at our biggest tips for handling stress and make a plan for yourself this holiday season!
Grounding is simply bringing your awareness back to the present moment by using awareness of your body and surroundings. This is extremely helpful in dealing with stress since most of our worry is about things in the past or things yet to come.
Simply closing your eyes and paying attention to your breath brings you back to the moment. Intentionally looking at things in your surroundings or noticing sensory input can be an effective tool as well. The key is the intention and awareness behind the action.
For more directed grounding exercise check out the following.
- Box Breathing (also known as Four Square breathing)
- Basic Breathing For Stress Management (from @core360belt)
- Self-Compassion Meditations (with Kristen Neff)
Positive social cues are actually good for your physical health. Warm connections actually lead to the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. This is often referred to as co-regulation of the nervous system.
So, connect with a friend...
- in person if you are comfortable
- with a video call so you can be face-to-face. (There are many free services such as Zoom, Skype, Google Duo, or Facebook messenger)
- through a phone call.
- by email and text.
And remember to be intentional about the time you have with those at home. This could be having a meal together, playing a quick game, reading a chapter of a book together, or building a fire in the evening.
Reframing the way we perceive stress is another valuable tool to reducing the impact of chronic stress. When you are unable to change the stressors in your life, reframing your thoughts may actually change how you experience the stress.
When you can not change the situation that is causing you stress, it is important to change the way you interact with the stress in your mind. Shifting your perspective is not an easy thing to do, but it is often possible. Try using the techniques found here.
Establishing good self-care routines is extremely important. Each person will be different based on personality, circumstance, and values. It could be spending time with a friend, or it could be making time for solitude. It could be exercising, or taking time to read.
The important thing is to choose things that are life-giving and enjoyable for you. Make sure to pick things you can do in the busyness of the season. Once you decide on a couple make them a priority.
For more information see this article about Self-Care for Everyone.
Having healthy boundaries can be an extremely important factor in reducing chronic stress, but it is especially hard during the holidays! Oftentimes we do not consider what is best for us, simply going along with what others ask of us. This can leave us with little margin; overscheduled and overwhelmed.
It is important to consider what we are willing to give; financially, physically, and even emotionally. After doing so, many of us will find that we need to learn how to say “no” to others without feeling guilty as well.
In this season, healthy boundaries may include limiting the amount of time you stay at holiday parties, the amount you spend on others, or even setting some time aside for solitude (even from those you live with).
Feelings of gratitude are good for our brains, activating the hypothalamus and flooding our brains with the feel-good hormone dopamine. Some studies have found it to decrease the prominent stress hormone cortisol and blood pressure, while increasing heart rate variability.
By intentionally placing our attention on things that bring us pleasure we can cultivate gratitude in an authentic way.
For more ideas on gratitude check out Creating a Gratitude Practice.
Acknowledging Our Difficult Emotions
Throughout the holiday there’s a good chance that you may be experiencing a level of stress and anxiety, or even anger and depression. Whatever emotions you are experiencing, there is a reason you feel the way you do.
Pushing these difficult emotions aside can have a negative effect on our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. It is important to allow yourself to lean into these painful emotions and accept them without judgement.
Difficult emotions tend to come like a wave. Let them wash over you and then pass on. Resisting them does not tend to be an effective way to handle these types of emotions.
The key is learning to lean into these emotions to the extent you are able to without it dysregulating your nervous system. If you find the intensity of the emotions is too much or you stay in these difficult emotions too long, you may want to reach out for some support.
By processing these difficult emotions you may find that you are able to enjoy aspects of the holidays!
Let us know what you are doing to handle the stress of the holidays!