Five tips to Reduce Holiday Stress
Are the holidays fun or just filled with stress for you? Most people feel as though they are on a roller coaster from Halloween to New Year’s Day. How can you feel calm, not gain the average of 5 pounds, and still have fun in the process? Here are my top 5 tips for reducing holiday stress and avoiding weight gain.
Reduce your stress and anxiety. This one can be easier said than done but I’ve got some easy tips that just may help. There are several things you can do to reduce your stress response. The first and most basic one I like is to stop and breathe. Yes, it’s that simple. When you feel yourself breathing in a stressful way, such as very shallow in only the upper portion of your chest, stop and notice it. Sometimes you may even catch yourself holding your breath. In that moment, stop whatever you are doing and take 5 deep belly breaths. Actually put your hand on your belly and inhale while feeling your belly rise and fill with oxygen. Now release the breath fully and completely. Do this 5 times and you will start to engage the parasympathetic (relaxing) nervous system.
If you enjoy regular meditation, yoga, exercise, dancing or just walking in nature, then all of these activities can reduce your stress response. Pick something you love and that brings you joy and figure out how to fit it into your daily life. That could mean just 5 minutes of meditation or working out per day. Don’t make it a big deal or you’ll never get started.
Eat regular, balanced meals. Start your day with breakfast within 1 hour of rising and include protein in that and every meal throughout the day. If you need a snack, pair it with protein. So an apple goes with nuts, nut butter, or cheese. Eating within 1 hour of rising gets your blood sugar in a normal range and will help your energy throughout the day. Studies have shown that people who eat a protein breakfast eat 80% less calories throughout the day. Many of those extra calories are consumed between dinner and bedtime. So eat at least 3, well-balanced meals through the day that include protein and lots of veggies. Keep refined carbohydrates to a minimum as they can trigger sugar cravings, which can be a very slippery slope.
Get enough sleep. What is the right amount? It’s more than most people get, 7-9 hours is ideal. Many people are running around sleep deprived and using massive amounts of caffeine to make it through the day. Sleeping the right 8 hours is also essential to balance. You have an internal clock whereby there is an ideal time sleep, eat, have sex and have a bowel movement. Working in sync with your internal clock will help you feel well rested, digest your food better and help your mood. Getting to bed between 9-10pm is ideal. I know, you might think that sounds crazy, but my suggestion is to start getting ready for bed an hour before you actually want to sleep. Have a wind down routine, lower the lights and get off the electronics. If you are a night owl, then just start by going to bed 15 minutes earlier per WEEK. Make it a slow transition and you will reap the benefits of a restful night’s sleep. Caffeine can take about 12 hours to be processed through your body. So keep the coffee consumption to before 11am. Get up between 5-6am. Start your day with a cup of warm lemon water and that will get your bowels moving. Then have breakfast between 7-9am and dinner before 7pm. By the way, the ideal time for sex is 7-9pm. I knew you were wondering that.
Make a Plan. Plan your meals in advance and shop for the week. Prep all your food, like washing veggies and cutting them for easy snacking, before putting the groceries away. This will reduce daily stress of what to cook for dinner and what to pack for lunch. If you celebrate holidays with gift giving, schedule shopping and gift wrapping in advance. Waiting until the 11th hour only adds to your stress levels. Think about shopping on your lunch break or some other way to work it into your day. Make a list of gifts and just buy 1 or 2 per week or every few days. Better yet, shop online and have them sent directly already wrapped.
Schedule down time. Remember that even good events can be stressful. When you are busy jumping from holiday party to cocktail celebration then to dinner with friends all within a short period of time, there is no time to rest and rejuvenate yourself. Actually schedule time off for yourself. Put it on the calendar and hold the space just like any other commitment. When you do take time for yourself, do something relaxing. Watch a funny movie, take a bath, take a walk in nature, don’t use the time to catch up on errands or paying bills.
Holidays are Family Time
Remember that holidays are for celebrating with family and friends. It’s not about the perfect gift, tree or dinner.