The winter holidays can be the most enjoyable time of the year. They can also be the most stressful. Between financial concerns, family disagreements, and time constraints, this time of year can be both enjoyable AND stressful. What can you do to lessen your anxiety level and increase your enjoyment? Try one or more of these simple tips:
1. Meditate. Yes, I’m going there. Spending a few minutes every day has been proven to lower your stress levels and make you calmer. The more you practice, the easier it gets and the better you feel. There are apps you can use as well as plenty of excellent books about meditation. But the basic instructions are easy: just sit still, count your breaths and watch the thoughts as they run through your mind. That’s it. You don’t need special equipment and there are no rules. Just sit quietly and breathe. It helps to have an anchor which is why some teachers advise counting your breaths. Just count from one on the in breath, two on the out breath all the way to ten. Then start again. Do this for 5-20 minutes a day and you will start to see the benefits quickly.
2. Exercise. No matter what your fitness level, a little exercise every day can have a dramatic difference on your stress level. Aim for 30 minutes a day, more during times of stress. It doesn’t matter what you do–brisk walking, dancing, even housecleaning will release some of the stress. Whatever you do, just get moving!
3. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is simply staying in the moment and being present. If you watch your own thoughts a bit, you’ll quickly realize that you feel anxious when you are thinking about the future or stressing over the past. The truth is you can’t know what the future holds and there’s usually little to be done about what has already happened. The best strategy? Do the best you can to be prepared and then just let it go and be with whatever is happening. If something unexpected throws a wrench into your holiday plans, find a way to accept it and go with the flow. In other words, don’t sweat the small stuff and enjoy the moments.
4. Watch your junk food and alcohol intake. It’s easy to indulge during holidays–a little too much sugar, a little too much wine. That’s part of the fun, right? It can also add to your stress so plan your indulgences and enjoy them more by eating mostly healthy food and limiting your alcohol intake. Have that glass of champagne or eggnog and enjoy it. But skip the second or third one.
5. Keep an eye on expectations. Do you expect to have a perfect holiday? Envision your happy family never having an argument? Keep an eye on those expectations! And, be sure you’ve discussed plans ahead of time with other family members so you’re all on the same page. Your daughter or son may want to start their own traditions so be careful of setting yourself up for disappointment. Don’t expect people to read your mind or be on board for things they haven’t agreed to. Communicate ahead of time and be willing to compromise.