We’re just a few weeks away from Christmas, and though it’s a joyous and festive time of the year, it’s filled with so much activity, traveling, baking, shopping, and even financial stress that it can be difficult to enjoy the moments we want to cherish. But if we allow the stress to overwhelm us, it may keep us from appreciating what’s truly important. When that happens, we may miss out on some really great times.
The holidays are meant to bring us together, and oftentimes that takes a conscious decision on our part, as we have to know what to avoid, how to act, and what to focus on. So since we all want to make the most of this time of the year, we here at Performance Inspired have come up with six things you can do to combat stress to help you enjoy your family, your friends, and the celebration of one of the greatest seasons of the year.
- Laugh and have fun
Laughter is truly one of the best medicines, and it has been proven to have both short- and long-term effects on mental health and mood. So put down those phones, close the computers, and spend some quality time with the people closest to you—whether that’s your children, your spouse, your family, or your best friends. Play cards or a board game and just enjoy each other’s company. Put together a gingerbread house. Watch a funny holiday movie like Elf or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. A night of fun and laughter will help alleviate your stress and will build memories with the ones you love.
Though you may feel strapped for time, it’s important to pay attention to your own mental and physical health. One of the best ways to do this is to exercise. Take care of yourself by heading to the gym, going for a jog, playing Pickleball with friends, or by going for a bike ride.
- Get some fresh air
According to the US Forest Service, studies have shown that spending time outside is not only relaxing, but it helps reduce stress, muscle tension, and heart rate. So regardless of whether you live in a warm or cold climate, some fresh air and sunshine will do you good—physically and mentally. You could sit outside and just enjoy nature. You could go for a short walk alone or maybe even a hike through the woods. Or you could start a snowball fight with your kids. Simply getting outside and doing something fun will lighten your mood.
- Eat healthy foods
The holidays are full of sweet temptations. Pies, cakes, cookies, and other treats are great, but too many of them can lead to spikes in blood sugar, weight gain, and an overall feeling of lethargy. So enjoy the sweets, but don’t overdo it, especially if the increase in junk food is likely to upset your mental health and cause you to be upset with any progress you’ve made with weight loss or getting in shape. Maintain your healthy eating habits and eat sweets in moderation. For instance, if you’re going to a party, fill up your plate first with veggies, hummus, nuts, and some meat or cheese. Snack on those before you indulge in the cookies. You won’t be as hungry, and it will be easier to limit the sweets.
- Focus on a healthy mindset
To some degree, people have control over their moods. While it might be easy to allow the stress of the holidays to affect your mood, it’s vital to make a conscious decision to focus on the positive. Take some time each day to make a mental list of the good things in your life and allow those things to fill your mind rather than the negatives. Do things like listen to happy music or force yourself to smile. Music boosts happiness and reduces anxiety. And studies have shown that “the physical act of smiling not only created internal positive feelings, but also caused participants to see the world around them in a more positive way.” It’s true; try it!
- Create realistic expectations
The rising cost of just about everything can lead to increased anxiety, especially as we wonder how much to spend on gifts, how much to spend on travel, and so on. But remember that Christmas shouldn’t be about just the gifts. It’s about family, togetherness, and giving thanks for all that we have. Keep that in mind as you sit down and figure out what you can afford, how much time you can take off of work, and how long you want to spend with family. Then stick with those limits. When you take control of your life and the decisions you’re making, you will feel less anxiety and more at ease with your decisions. And if you create a plan, you won’t feel guilty for sticking to it. Less guilt equals less stress.
We want you to have a wonderful and low-stress Christmas season. So take a deep breath, get some fresh air, exercise, smile, and make some awesome memories with your family.
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