The holidays—they’re the most wonderful time of the year. Or are they? From gift buying to party planning, travel delays to crazy relatives, the holiday season can be a high-stress period. Add high alcohol consumption, heavy foods and altered exercise and sleep schedules, and the holidays quickly become a recipe for exhaustion. Many of us start the New Year feeling totally wiped.
It’s time to make a change. Here are four ways to avoid burnout this holiday season.
The holidays are full of opportunities to buy, socialize, eat and drink. Overspending or attending too many social gatherings can leave you feeling drained, rather than connected and uplifted. Prioritize the individuals and events that matter most and politely pass on the rest. The same strategy can be applied to food. With no shortage of tempting treats, it’s easy to stress over holiday eating. Take inventory of your holiday food must-haves and choose only those that really please you. Consider variety, including vegetables, proteins and healthy fats, to prevent blood sugar spikes and dips that can increase anxiety. Enjoy these foods without guilt, knowing you made a choice to honor your health and appetite.
Be Flexible With Your Workout Routine
We know exercise can reduce stress, but when anxiety levels are high, adding intense exercise to the mix can do more harm than good. During these times, taking a gentler approach to exercise is often more beneficial. An overly rigid workout routine creates an all-or-nothing mentality, leading to thoughts like, “If I can't get in a killer workout, there’s no point.” These absolutist thoughts sabotage consistency. When time is tight, consider other ways to perform daily movement. Stroll through decorated neighborhoods or take short movement or stretch breaks at work. You can even stretch or do yoga while waiting at the airport. A regular workout might have to be shortened up or done in your living room, but even small amounts of movement are beneficial. Being flexible with your workout routine can help you maintain fitness momentum and reduce tension through the holiday season.
We’ve all fallen into the trap of wanting more during the holidays. Envy, competition and unrealistic expectations can leave us feeling frazzled and unfulfilled. This year, shift your mindset by practicing gratitude for what you already have, both tangible and intangible. A focus on gratitude has been shown to increase happiness and feelings of optimism. Set aside a few minutes each day to count your blessings or jot some notes in a gratitude journal when you wake or before bed. Share these feelings by thoughtfully expressing your appreciation to loved ones. You may not have the power to control all your holiday stressors, but you do have the ability to determine your outlook and focus. These daily practices can boost your mood, reduce stress and improve your relationships.
Take a Mindful Moment
It happens every year—the holiday hoopla keeps you running at 100 MPH. Before you know it, it’s January and you’re left wondering where the relaxation was in “the most wonderful time of the year.” Worrying about the next present to buy, party to attend or houseguest to host is exhausting. It’s easy to let the joy of the holiday season pass by in a planning and preparing frenzy. Researchers at Berkeley found that when we aren’t focused on the present moment, we’re markedly less happy. In these mindless moments, we often ruminate, worry and stress. The researchers discovered that no matter what people are doing, whether riding a city bus or spending time with friends, happiness levels are highest when individuals pay attention to the present moment. Being more mindful substantially increases happiness and is an effective tool to combat chronic stress. Of course, increasing mindfulness is easier said than done. One useful technique is taking mini-mindfulness breaks throughout the day. Set reminders or alarms on your phone for a few minutes of quiet contemplation. You can focus on your breath, the sounds in your environment or your physical sensations to anchor yourself in the present moment.
It’s natural to worry about your wallet, schedule or waistline during the holidays, but don’t allow these thoughts to negatively impact your health. Take proactive steps to minimize stressors and rejuvenate this holiday season.