Managing Holiday Stress Before it Starts
The holiday season is a favorite time of year for many. However, it is also often a time of heightened stress. Add the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and related economic effects, and it’s clear there are some looming emotional and mental hardships on the horizon for many. In fact, over the past year, the CDC reported a significant increase in mental health-related disorders, with more adults reporting increased anxiety and depression.
Discover several ways to get ahead of holiday stress for a happier, more healthful holiday season.
Why Are the Holidays So Stressful for So Many?
Just because the holiday season is around the corner doesn’t mean day-to-day responsibilities fade or lessen. If nothing else, the holidays add to everyone’s to-do list with more calendar events, more spending on food and gifts, and more time with family. All of these weigh on people to varying degrees.
On top of these fairly common stressors, many people are dealing with loss, loneliness and uncertainty about the coming year. To add another layer, people often experience added stress out of sheer anticipation of the holiday season. Lastly, a great many people suffer from seasonal affective disorder during this time of the year.
One of the best ways to help reduce holiday season stress is to act early. By getting ahead of the stress, you can significantly minimize the onset of worry and high stress. And, regularly practicing these stress management techniques will build resilience and establish healthy habits that can last the entire season and beyond.
Notice Your Feelings and Take Steps
Our bodies send us signals all the time, including signals about mounting stress. Those signals show up differently for everyone, so listening to your body is crucial. Stress can show up as trouble with sleep, irregular bowel movements, food cravings, lack of motivation to complete daily tasks or workouts, irregular mood shifts and more.
Acknowledge your emotional and mental state, as well as the physical signals your body sends to communicate that stress is mounting. Recognize your limitations and remember to say no to people, tasks, food and drinks that will undermine your efforts to monitor, manage and minimize your stress.
While good habits help us manage ongoing stress, being able to manage elevated stress in the moment is also crucial. Being able to ground yourself can make all the difference. Integrating a breathing practice is a great way to manage high anxiety moments. For those who have a yogic breathing practice, apnea training or another favorite breathing practice, you’re ahead of the curve.
For those who need a suggestion, try square breathing. It’s recommended by therapists, utilized by first responders, and works for the U.S. military. Begin by breathing in for a count of four. Next, hold your breath for a count of four. Then exhale for a count of four. Finally, hold again for a count of four and repeat. It’s called square breathing because the four-count for each step can be drawn as a square when illustrating the process.
Choose High-Quality Soothing Cannabinoids
A great resource available to you is a selection of high-quality, carefully formulated cannabinoid products. For example, consider a calming sublingual CBD spray with added ingredients like L-theanine and GABA. This combination of ingredients supports a calm mind so you can face holiday stressors with a greater sense of ease.
Not sure where to start with cannabinoids? KOR Medical has partnered with Leaf411™ to provide free, personalized support to customers. You can speak directly with a trained registered nurse on cannabinoid use and applications.
You may already know that meditation has many calming benefits. If you don’t already meditate, consider just 10 minutes a day, as research indicates regular meditation can actually change your brain waves, helping you feel calm and grounded. And over time, meditation can rewire your brain to be more resilient. If you already put in some meditation time every day, consider adding a few minutes to your sessions and meditating more often, such as in the morning, on your lunch break and before going to bed.
There are numerous apps that offer free and paid guided meditations. Many people rely on YouTube. Or, you might learn some meditation skills while taking a yoga class. Try different types of meditation to see what works best for you. Consider binaural beats, transcendental meditation, body scans, guided meditation or any other techniques that resonate with you.
Exercise More and Consistently
You’ve probably heard that exercise is a great mood booster. If there’s an ideal time to push for regular exercise, it’s not at the beginning of summer to get the beach body — although we encourage people to seize any reason for more and regular exercise. The holiday season is an especially great time to firm up your exercise habits, and holiday food is a great reason to punch it up a bit. Remember that exercise really should happen every day, even if it’s just 10 minutes of sweating. All activity that gets your heart rate up counts as exercise.
Make Healthful Food Choices and Stay Hydrated
Synonymous with the holiday season are processed foods, high fat and high sugar foods, and general overindulgence. While having too much eggnog and holiday desserts at a party won’t break your fitness goals, overindulgence as a habit is a bigger problem. Skip fad diets and remember that all things in moderation is a healthy approach. You might even add mood-boosting foods to your grocery list, such as berries, high fiber foods, bananas and the occasional bite of dark chocolate.
And remember that while 64 ounces is the minimum daily water goal, there’s so much more that goes into proper hydration. So aim for 100 ounces or more of regular old clear water. And if you have any other drinks at all, including coffee, kombucha, alcohol, soda and more — be sure to drink an additional eight-ounce glass of water for each non-water drink.
Practice Sleep Hygiene
Late-night holiday parties, longer to-do lists, lack of sleep due to worrying or anxiety — these are just a few common reasons people lose sleep during the holiday season. To keep your mood and energy up, you not only need to aim for at least seven hours of sleep each night, but you should also consider consistent bedtimes and wake times.
Creating bedtime rituals and morning habits are often considered the ideal way to manage sleep. For example, meditating, journaling and having a soothing cup of tea at bedtime are highly recommended. Exercising, taking a cold shower and staying away from digital devices until you are actually starting your day are also often recommended as healthy morning routines.
Reconnect With Your Network
We all lose track of people or miss out on opportunities to stay in touch with people throughout the year. Luckily, the holiday season is a great time to reconnect. Send a postcard, letter, newsletter or text message, or try something novel like picking up the phone and making a call. Whatever you choose, let people know you’re thinking about them. Wish them health and wellness. Maybe even exchange headlines about each other’s lives.
Not only is being social and reconnecting with people you like and respect great for your health, but it’s also great for the person with whom you are reconnecting. Just remember that reconnecting with your network may bring up triggers or surprising reasons you lost touch. When that happens, remember to be present and listen to what they have to say. You got in touch to have a conversation, so keep that intention front and center while you build bridges and offer olive branches if that’s the direction some reconnection conversations take.
Set Aside Differences
One of the reasons holiday get-togethers can be so stressful is socializing with family members, extended family and their plus-ones. That means we’re participating in social conventions and obligatory forms of social interaction that can make people uncomfortable. For example, it can be tough to enjoy a meal with a highly critical and vocal person at the table. Many people also find it stressful to be around others who don’t share their views, for instance religious, political and other opinions that remind us we aren’t all like-minded.
In these types of situations, remember to breathe and remind yourself that the moment is temporary. Challenge yourself to focus on enjoying whatever you can about the day while ignoring or brushing off, even if repeatedly, anything you don’t like about it or the people. You might even challenge yourself to be a positive influence on the day while testing your endurance. With the proper preparation and mindset, anyone can get through a few hours or more of uncomfortable time.
Find a Joyful Holiday Season
There are many tools and resources at your disposal for a joyful holiday season. Some people listen to music while others elevate their time with a therapist. It’s a great idea to start your day with something you enjoy. Visualization can be an especially effective tool for making it through the holiday season as well as other stressful events throughout the year.
The holiday season is stressful for just about everyone for a variety of reasons. Getting ahead of the expected stress by building up your resilience and your stress-combating habits before the season hits is the best way to manage tough times. Seize all opportunities to minimize stress, including the opportunity to enjoy a calming cannabidiol sublingual spray.
Also, always remember that you are never truly alone. If your stress turns into thoughts about suicide or hurting yourself or others, there are options. Reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK  or chat online. You can also contact the Crisis Textline for support by sending a text message to 741741.