‘Tis the season to be stressed and anxious. There aren’t enough hours in a normal day for many of us, and now besides our daily responsibilities, we are adding holiday cards, parties, shopping, gifts, and opportunities to spend time with friends and family. In the quest to find the perfect gift or attend the next party, we can easily find ourselves overwhelmed and too exhausted to do or give another thing.
More than 40 percent of women rank stress and anxiety as a negative influence on their personal health according to Everyday Health’s Special Report: State of Women’s Wellness 2017. In fact, researchers found that 43 percent of the women surveyed name stress and anxiety as a top threat to personal wellness. Some 55 percent of millennial women ranked stress and anxiety at the top of the negative factors on personal health, while slightly fewer members of older generations said they considered it a negative (44 percent of Gen-Xers; 33 percent of baby boomers).
Stress and anxiety are factors in life that we learn — and continually relearn — to live with and manage, every single day. As Sharon Salzberg, meditation teacher and author, writes, “At best, stress is a constant hum, at worst, it’s an acute and insidious pain.” That means that we need to learn to manage it, and take extra care during the busy holiday season.
So, what can we do to reduce the stress and actually enjoy this time of year?
Get plenty of sleep – Adequate sleep is beneficial in so many ways, and Joy Bauer reports on the Today Show, this time of year it can help you strengthen your resolve, improve your sanity and maintain your weight. Some studies also show that when you routinely clock a good night’s sleep, you’ll be more likely to make better food choices. Science also shows that sleep deprivation can lead to higher levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone, ghrelin, likely leading to a case of next-day munchies and a holiday of sugary sweet bad decisions.
Get some fresh air – Go into your calendar and schedule yourself 10 minutes of fresh air 3 days this week. Whether it’s going outside and feeling the cold air or the warm sun, going for a walk with no destination, or finding a favorite tree to look at, take 30 minutes this week. You won’t lose out by taking three 10-minute breaks. You will get a fresh perspective. Blood will flow better to your brain. You’ll return calmer and more refreshed. You’ll look at the list, do the next best right thing and say to yourself, “Oh, I have got this.”
Keep it simple – Stress levels can increase dramatically this time of year, especially if you have too much on your plate. That doesn’t mean that you have to cancel your plans, but make sure you’re not setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. Remember, everything doesn’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to do everything yourself. The holidays are the perfect time to delegate. Perhaps instead of taking on the responsibility of preparing an entire meal alone, you could ask for help in the kitchen or ask guests to bring a dish. Involve friends and family members in planning events, and split up tasks in the planning stages. Most importantly, know your limitations and learn how to say “no.”
Do the next best right thing – Kathy LeMay, founder, president, and CEO of Raising Change says that we should take one task on the list and focus on it. Don’t rush. Don’t speed through it. Breathe. Write that personal email to someone you haven’t connected with in awhile. Take a few minutes to cut the article out of the paper. Slow down. Don’t speed up. Take your time with each correspondence, activity, and phone call. You will be more creative. You’ll feel more relaxed, and suddenly you’ll find yourself enjoying year-end activities.
Know your spending limit – Set a budget, and stick to it. Never, ever buy gifts that you’ll spend the rest of the year trying to pay off. Give something personal or show love and caring with any gift that is meaningful. Instead of making the holidays a time where breaking the bank becomes the norm, make it a time to do meaningful activities that don’t revolve around spending unnecessary dollars. Set new traditions, volunteer, or work on projects to help others. Those types of activities can provide deep meaning and value, perhaps more so than a “thing” can. And you’ll show the next generation how we can work together to make the world a better place.
Ultimately, this time of year we need to manage our stress levels, be our best selves, and reach out and connect with the people in our lives. We can’t do that if we’re overwhelmed or frazzled. The season is about sharing love with one another, and no matter who you have to share yours with, share it with yourself. Be kind to you throughout the holidays and the new year. It will be the best present you will receive–guaranteed.