The holidays are an exciting time when we visit family and friends, go to more parties than usual, decorate our homes and, hopefully, enjoy ourselves. And too often, holiday stress gets in the way and saps our energy and health. But it doesn’t have to be like this, it is possible to find balance during the holidays and enjoy the season with some minor adjustments.
Keep Stress Relief a Priority
Stress seems to build up quickly this time of year for many reasons like traveling, family commitments and money pressures. Add extra activities like holiday parties and shopping, and many people feel under more pressure than they should. But taking time to slow down can benefit your physical and mental health. Here are just some ways to relieve holiday stress:
- Meditate – Author Dr. Sukhraj Dhillon once said that one should sit for 20 minutes in meditation every day and when you’re busy, longer. As odd as it seems, it’s not wasting time. Meditation calms the mind and when the mind is calm, we see more clearly and manage our time better. In addition, taking deep breaths and meditation helps reduce cortisol levels so you feel less stressed. (1)
- Exercise – Exercising just 20 minutes, three times a week increases your body’s production of endorphins that improve sleep, reduce stress and make you feel happier. Holiday stress often stops people from exercising as they begin to feel overwhelmed and busy, but just some exercise helps reduce symptoms of depression. (2) The short time required for benefits is easy to fit into a daily schedule, and the overall benefits will be well worth the effort.
- Eat right – With holiday parties come many treats and extra alcohol consumption. But that doesn’t mean all healthy foods should go out the door! Counteract the extra holiday calories by focusing on a balanced diet. For example, make a commitment to eat a piece of fruit and a salad every day, or take a B supplement to make sure you meet your daily nutrient requirements. When you do indulge, learn to enjoy you’re the treat and don’t overindulge. Many times, our mindset becomes all or nothing, but what you eat sometimes doesn’t define your overall healthy lifestyle. Even body builders have cheat days! So, remember balance, because even small, healthy practices add up and assist with overall wellbeing.
Keep up Your Energy Levels
When energy levels sag, we don’t get everything accomplished that we’d like. This can add to our holiday stress and even make some people feel depressed. Here are some practices to keep energy levels high:
- Energy foods – This tip goes along with a balanced diet, because the benefits of healthy foods go way beyond stress. They give us energy and help us keep a positive mood. Don’t worry about the occasional holiday sweets you eat, but do focus on making sure you eat energy foods during your regular meals. These include plenty fresh apples, bananas, fatty fish, brown rice, green tea and coffee, of course. But don’t load your coffee with sugar and cream or it will have the opposite effect.
- Stay hydrated – Consuming extra alcohol and sweets can quickly sap energy and leave you dehydrated. Be sure to make up for it by drinking fresh water throughout the day to help your body flush excess toxins and support your immune system.
- Exercise – This was already used for stress reduction, but exercise also creates energy. In fact, at last one study showed that low-intensity exercise reduces fatigue while increasing energy for most people.
- Supplement – Many times we simply don’t have the time to eat as healthy as we want, and it can be difficult to consume the recommended 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. If this sounds familiar, try supplementing your diet. Some popular choices that are proven to increase energy include B12, iron and beetroot powder. (3,4,5) But be sure your supplement is sourced from food and proven to work, or you won’t reap the desired benefits.
- Superfoods – Superfoods are a newer term used to describe foods that are packed with nutrients and energy. Some of these include berries and microgreens like alfalfa or wheatgrass. These are often sold in supplements to fill the need for our high-energy, faced paced lifestyle. Most taste good and are an easy way to get the extra nutrition for when we need it.
The holidays are supposed to be a time to enjoy, but too often we forget. It may take practice to learn to balance stress with enjoyment, so make a commitment to yourself to savor as much of the season as you can. Keep a diary of the fun times to remind yourself that the holiday season can be an enjoyable time of year. Here are just some ideas for holiday fun:
- Watch traditional movies – The holidays come with their own set of movies. Some carry the traditional meaning of giving while others are just entertaining. Either way, take a couple nights during the season to enjoy movies that make you laugh or get in the holiday spirit. Invite your family or friends, or if they stress you out, enjoy your movie solo. No matter how you do it, remember to relax and all things will get done.
- Take a holiday light drive – You don’t have to celebrate Christmas to enjoy all the holiday lights and decorations that people share. Take a drive or a stroll around the neighborhood or a local shopping area. And remember you don’t have to shop, just enjoy the festivities, grab an eggnog and relax, and remember a balanced life is a happy life.
- Attend a holiday party – Many people attend at least one, so why not enjoy it? Try to remember it’s just a couple of hours out of your week and you don’t have to stay all night. Holiday parties are about remembering to take time for yourself, meeting friends, relaxing and enjoying the season.
1 Turakitwanakan, W., Mekseepralard, C., & Busarakumtragul, P. (2013, January). Effects of mindfulness meditation on serum cortisol of medical students. Retrieved November 7, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23724462.
2 Craft LL, Perna FM. The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2004;6(3):104–111. doi:10.4088/pcc.v06n0301
3 Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin B12. (n.d.). Retrieved November 7, 2019, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-Consumer/.
4 D’Adamo CR, Novick JS, Feinberg TM, Dawson VJ, Miller LE. A Food-Derived Dietary Supplement Containing a Low Dose of Iron Improved Markers of Iron Status Among Nonanemic Iron-Deficient Women. J Am Coll Nutr. 2018;37(4):342–349. doi:10.1080/07315724.2018.1427158
5 Domínguez R, Cuenca E, Maté-Muñoz JL, et al. Effects of Beetroot Juice Supplementation on Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Athletes. A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2017;9(1):43. Published 2017 Jan 6. doi:10.3390/nu9010043