Studies by health researchers show, time and time again, that the holidays are a stressful time for many people. Even Harvard’s Department of Neurobiology acknowledges the effects that the holidays have on stress levels. A big part of this is caused by the need to adapt to changing circumstances — visiting relatives, finding the perfect gifts, struggles staying organized, and changes in diet over the holidays are all factors that contribute to stress. Fortunately, even if the holidays aren’t exactly the “most wonderful time of the year” for you, there are strategies you can use to help cope with holiday stress.
1. Stay hydrated.
It can be tough to remember to drink enough water each day. Being busy and drinking holiday cocktails certainly don’t help, either. Be sure to stay hydrated by setting reminders for yourself to stop and have a glass of water.
2. Cut down on sugar.
Nobody’s saying you have to avoid sweet holiday treats entirely, but insulin spikes and crashes definitely don’t help stress levels. Keep your blood sugar stable by eating a high protein diet, while limiting desserts and sugary drinks. You’ll avoid sending your blood sugar on a roller coaster and may even be able to avoid putting on extra pounds.
3. Limit social media.
There’s one source of holiday stress that may surprise you — competition. Feeling like you have to compete with the food, decorations, vacations, and gifts you see on other people’s social media feeds can make things more difficult during the holidays. Even if you rely on social media to keep in touch with loved ones, don’t forget: social media feeds are basically a “highlight reel,” not real life.
4. Stay organized.
If you aren’t the type of person to use a planner or a calendar app, now may be the time to try one out. Some tasks, like gift shopping or preparing holiday dinners, can seem daunting at first. Staying organized and taking the time to schedule each day and break larger tasks into smaller steps is a very helpful means of combating stress.
5. Take a walk.
It’s not easy to exercise during holiday season. It’s cold, things are busy, and getting a workout in may be the farthest thing from your mind. Unfortunately, this means that you miss out on the endorphins released during exercise. Try giving yourself twenty minutes a day for a brisk walk. It’ll give you some time to take in the holiday decorations in your neighborhood, and get a bit of exercise in.
6. Get your vitamin C.
Research shows that vitamin C helps us handle stress and anxiety. When German researchers tried to stress out study participants by making them do math problems and deliver speeches, they found that those who consumed high doses of vitamin C had lower blood pressure and cortisol than the control group. Try adding some blood oranges to your diet — they have more vitamin C than other varieties.
7. Sit down for some tea.
Unlike its caffeine-containing counterparts, herbal tea may help you relax. Herbs like lemon balm or chamomile have mild sedative-like properties that can help you combat stress one cup at a time. Taking a few minutes to sit and enjoy a cup of tea is a relaxing act in itself, but using relaxing herbs (and adding a bit of lemon for a vitamin C boost) can really help fight holiday woes.
8. Boost your “sunshine vitamin” levels.
One reason why the holidays can feel so rough is the lack of sunlight. Not only do shorter daylight hours make for dreary days, they deprive us of vitamin D. Both mental and physical stress are associated with low levels of this vitamin, and getting enough of it can be tricky during the holidays. Try a supplement, enriched foods like milk, fatty fish, egg yolks, or beef liver to boost your levels.
The holidays are a magical time, but stress can definitely make them feel less so. By taking some time for self-care exercises like walking or relaxing with a cup of tea, staying organized, and adjusting your diet, you can help keep yourself calm, collected, and happy this holiday season.