Oh, the holiday season. It’s a time that should be filled with love and laughter and delicious food, but it’s hard to enjoy the festivities when you’re stressed out about things like Black Friday shopping, overindulging on Thanksgiving dinner, or finals week. Well, you’re not alone. This time of year can be extremely overwhelming, which is why it’s so important to manage your stress during these times.
Stress is your body’s natural response to “dangerous” situations. While a little stress from time to time is completely natural, too much can be extremely taxing on your body. It affects your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to viral infections or disease. It affects your sleep, leaving you fatigued and unable to focus on school or work. And, it affects your digestion, making it more difficult for your body to absorb essential nutrients needed to keep you healthy. Basically, too much stress can have a significant impact on your mental and physical health. Plus, it’s the leading cause of acne, and there’s nothing worse than trying to battle a breakout when you’re already stressed out.
So you’re probably thinking, what can I do to prevent holiday stress? For starters, it helps to have some sort of outlet where you can release all of your negative energy. For me, that’s exercise. When I go to the gym, I’m able to just focus on my workout, and allow all of that negative energy and stress to leave my body. That being said, working out should be fun, and you shouldn’t feel like you have to go for a 5 mile jog to “relieve stress” if that’s not your type of workout. I am a HIIT/boot camp/circuit type person, so I need something high intensity to keep me focused. But if you prefer something more calming (like yoga, for example), that’s cool too.
I believe one source of stress that many people go through is worrying about food. This is so tricky because this stigma goes both ways. On one hand, you might feel forced to watch what you eat, or skip the dessert, or pile your plate with squash, peas, and carrots because that’s the “healthy” thing to do. I remember recently listening to a well trusted fitness professional exclaim that we should skip the pecan pie and stick to broccoli. Listen, guys. Thanksgiving is one of maybe a handful of days in the entire year where we have a free pass to eat whatever the hell we want! However, we also receive stigma that we aren’t eating enough. Has it ever happened to you, where you feel compelled to finish your entire plate even though you really aren’t that hungry? I’ve gone through this same problem year after year, where I eat way too much food in an attempt to be polite (or because I’m offered food), and then I end up feeling bloated, sluggish and gross. It doesn’t help that I battled gastrointestinal issues for years, either. This year, I’m going to make an effort to listen to my body and eat what I really want to eat, when my body is ready to eat. If that means that I only fill half my plate, that’s okay. If that means I go back for seconds, that’s okay too. If that means that I choose not to have squash to save room for more pie, that’s okay. You know your body more than anybody else does, and you know what/when you need to eat in order to stay comfortable.
Another major stress factor that I hear a lot from students and young adults is the pressure to buy extravagant Christmas gifts. Listen, I understand. You want to thank your family and friends for everything they do to love and support you throughout the year, but you feel like you don’t have adequate funding to do so. Thankfully, there are so many ways to show your love and appreciation without breaking the bank. Here are a few ideas…
- If you are a talented cook, consider making treats to give as gifts. Might I suggest this Pumpkin Whoopie Pie recipe as a good place to start…
- Maybe baking isn’t really your strong suit. There are plenty of wonderful gift ideas that are also on the cheaper side (think fuzzy blankets, fuzzy socks, fuzzy anything…). These simple gifts mean so much, especially if you live in a colder area where you’ll get to use them often.
- Most importantly, the holidays should be less about presents, and more about presence. What means the most at this time of year isn’t the gifts you receive, but the time you spend together. Gather your family together for a holiday flag football tournament, or an afternoon of playing cards. Even if you just spend a few hours together without phones or distractions, these small gestures will create more lasting memories than just opening presents will.
It is so easy to let stress get to you at this time of year. That’s why it’s so important to recognize what is causing your stress, and find the best way to alleviate it. That way, you can be more present for time well-spent with family and friends.