The “most wonderful time of the year” can easily take a turn in the wrong direction into the most stressful time of the year for many of us. Juggling family gatherings, office events, friends’ parties, children’s needs, gift purchases, extra cooking, and overeating can all trigger emotions and stress that are hard on our bodies and our mental and emotional health.
Here are some practical, easy, and fun steps to find balance and maintain emotional and physical health:
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and herbal teas. And don’t forget to hydrate your skin with lotions and lip balms. (There are lots of fun new fragrances to try this time of year!) Hydration nourishes the brain, aids in digestion, and can improve your overall mood.
- Find time to exercise. Living in Texas with our typically nicer winter weather allows access to walking or jogging in your neighborhood or nearby park. If you prefer to remain indoors, turn on your favorite music and dance enthusiastically for 15 – 20 minutes. Any form of exercise will release endorphins which fight off moodiness and seasonal depression.
- Pamper yourself. Taking a bubble bath, having a warm apple cider or hot chocolate, or lighting a favorite candle and listening to music while propping up your feet can create a sense of calm and happiness, especially during the stress of the holidays.
- Minimize screen time in favor of human connection. Research shows the happiest people are those who connect with others and build meaningful relationships. The brain is made for human connection; we feel the most fulfilled and at peace when we are valued members of a group. So pull your face out from behind that screen, and forge real connections with loved ones. Reach out for a coffee date with someone you have not seen in a while, or invite a friend over to bake Christmas cookies.
- Make a budget. While most households in America spend more during the month of December than other months of the year, it’s important not to go overboard. Do your best to stick to a gift list and a budget. And avoid overuse of credit cards as there is nothing worse than starting the new year heavily in debt.
- Indulge responsibly without overstuffing. Treating yourself to sweets and rich food can make you feel happy in the immediate, but overeating unhealthy food can have a long-lasting impact on your body that leaves the challenge of shedding unwanted pounds and learning to tame your sweet tooth when the holidays are over. Over consumption of alcohol not only packs on the calories but reduces your judgment and impairs your ability to make your best choices. Just a taste or a sip can bring much better results. Drinking a full glass of water before you eat or consume alcoholic beverages helps you to not over consume.
- It’s okay to feel the way you feel. It is healthy to acknowledge your feelings and work through them, rather than suppressing them. One of the greatest holiday stresses is the absence of a loved one who passed away. Know some parts of the holiday will be wonderful, but some parts may be sad. Holidays can provide an opportunity for healing when you take joy in the friends and relatives who are present and recall fond memories of holidays past with those who are no longer present.
May your holidays bring you joy and happiness as you proactively minimize the frustration and stress. You may have many things to take care of this holiday season, but remember your physical and emotional health should be at the top of your list!