With the hectic holiday season underway, I thought I'd share some ways to take control of the overwhelm and bring back the holiday cheer.
My Top 5 Tips to Minimize Holiday Stress
1. Say No to More Things.
People-pleasers like me have a tough time with this one, but at this time of year, more than ever, we need to put ourselves and our loved ones first. We can give more to others when we feel strong and fulfilled. Like in the oxygen mask analogy—take care of yourself first so you can take care of those around you.
No more SHOULDS. No more guilt. Your social calendar does not define you. Stop wearing your “busy-ness” as a badge of courage. Choose peace over chaos.
Say NO to all the non-essentials. Graciously decline the invitations that are not from close family and friends.
Building new relationships can happen all 12 months of the year—leave December to strengthen the ones you already have.
Purchase bakery treats to give away instead of baking this year! (That helps with both the temptation to indulge and the time commitment).
Shop online rather than deal with the malls and shopping center. Spend the extra $$ to have your gifts wrapped before you get home.
Skip sending out cards this year, or send out “Happy New Year” cards in January or “We Love You” cards in February. Your friends and family will understand.
Agree with friends and family to cut back on the social commitments and choose only those activities that strengthen and uplift the relationships most important to you.
2. Practice Intermittent Fasting
We’re all eating more than we normally do during the holidays. The weather is colder, the days are shorter, and it’s one of the busiest times of the year (see Tip #1). With stress comes binge eating. Add to that the greater availability of sweets and alcohol. We’re left feeling tired, sluggish, and guilty.
Research indicates that fasting once a week for 24 hours strengthens the immune system, decreases inflammation, and resets our body’s ability to burn stored fat. If a 24-hour fast is too extreme, try shortening the time you eat during the day. Eat your first meal at lunch (fast through breakfast) and eat your last bite no later than 7pm.
There will be parties to attend with delicious food to try—plan in advance to fast those days until 2 or 3pm. Eat a healthy meal BEFORE you go out, and then (in moderation) go ahead and taste the yummy treats at the party.
I’m not talking about disordered eating here. I’m not talking about calorie restriction. With intermittent fasting you are NOT controlling HOW MUCH you eat—merely WHEN you eat.
Of course, please don’t fast if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, on certain medications, or have a health condition that requires a doctor’s permission before starting a new eating program.
3. Move More.
Notice I didn’t say “exercise more.” If you can fit in more workouts, fantastic! But if you’re struggling to maintain a workout schedule, look for opportunities to move your body more.
Take the stairs. Park further away from your destination and walk. Take a walking lunch break.
Make it a goal to not sit for longer than 50 minutes at a time. Set your timer for 50 minutes throughout the day and get up and walk around the office, do some laundry, stretch in your cubicle, etc. (Your productivity will actually increase!)
Take an extra lap around the mall when you’re done with your shopping (or skip the mall altogether—see Tip #1—and exercise during the time you would be dealing with the crowds).
Research shows that short bouts of movement throughout the day can be just as effective as a one-hour block of exercise. Just look for excuses to MOVE!!
4. Drink More Water.
It is recommended we drink half our body weight (in ounces of water) every day. With the busier schedules this time of year (see Tip #1) it’s easy to get dehydrated.
When we’re dehydrated we tend to snack more, feel “foggy” or more forgetful, and our energy lags. We might be grumpy and impatient. We are not our best selves when we’re dehydrated.
Plan for your hydration the night before, filling glass or stainless steel water containers with pure, filtered water. That way, when you’re on the run, you’ve got your water ready to go and you won’t have to grab that Diet Coke or Starbucks coffee at the drive-thru.
Instead of the punch or alcoholic beverages at parties, drink half your liquid in the form of water. If you’re feeling bold, drink ONLY water at parties—you’ll be amazed at who follows your lead and what amazing conversations are started over this one behavior.
5. Sleep More. (Yes, I said sleep more.)
Commit to sleeping one hour MORE a night. By following the above tips, you’ll carve out more time to do this.
I know this is tough, but you can do it! You’ve just got to make a plan to put this new behavior in place.
Change into your jammies earlier in the evening. Try to eat dinner earlier (see Tip #2). Turn off the TV, the laptop, your phone at least one hour before bedtime. Use the time before bed to prepare for the next day. Pack your lunch, fill your water bottles, set out your clothes. You’ll sleep better knowing you’re ready for a new day.
If you struggle to get to sleep earlier, can you sleep in an extra hour? If not, work towards going to bed earlier in increments. Start with the goal of hitting the sack 15 minutes earlier than usual. Over the course of a week or two, work up to 30 minutes, then 45, then 60.
Our bodies restore while we sleep. Our minds are clearer, our attitudes more positive, and our energy greater when we get both the quality and quantity of sleep we need. Your whole world might seem brighter by simply doing this one step.
I hope you’ll consider implementing these 5 Tips. Make the time to celebrate the season without the stress, the crowds, the fuss. Choose quality time with your loved ones. Take measures to ensure that the meaning of the season isn’t lost in errands, to-do lists, and obligations that wear you out. Remember the most important gifts aren't presents.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and look forward to hearing what you’re doing to allow peace in your life.
PS-- for more tips on reaching and maintaining optimal health, click HERE.