There’s something about the winter holidays that can make a person feel uniquely enthusiastic and exhausted. We spend weeks planning, but when the holiday season arrives, it’s all-too-common to feel completely unprepared. When you consider that the winter holidays coincide with cold and flu season and the time of the year with the least sunlight, it’s no wonder that general anxiety levels are high for many people at this time of year.
Here are a few winter holiday tips to help minimize stress so that you can best enjoy this wonderful time of year.
Plan ahead of time, and be flexible. Planning ahead can reduce stress during the holiday season. Try deciding ahead of time how much to spend on gifts, what to pack for travel, and what to cook for a large meal. Getting as much prepared before the winter holidays arrive, so that you have that much less to do and think about, is a great way to de-clutter your brain and minimize anxiety. For those things that cannot be planned, or for uncontrollable circumstances, give yourself a break and do your best to roll with the punches.
Prioritize sleep. It is amazing how much more overwhelming things can seem when you are tired. A good night’s sleep (or nap!) rejuvenates, helps reduce stress and keeps your immune system in fighting shape. While there is no “magic number” for number of hours to sleep, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute recommends between 7-8 hours for adults.
Get fresh air! An invigorating walk outside can do wonders for your health by getting your blood flowing and clearing your thoughts. While getting some sunshine would be an added bonus, even an evening stroll can have some remarkable psychological benefits. While outside though, be careful if it is icy and slippery.
Be mindful with eating. Healthy eating is a great way to stay healthy and combat holiday stress. Enjoy your holiday feast, and certainly enjoy a few holiday treats. Here are some holiday eating tips that will improve your diet, , without making you feel like you are denying yourself during winter festivities:
- Follow the suggestions from MyPlate.gov, and fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables.
- Try eating more whole grains by switching out white rice for brown rice. And eat some oatmeal for breakfast or use whole-wheat toast. Whole grains have a lower glycemic index, help reduce your risk of chronic disease, and aids weight management.
- Snack during the day on fruit, veggies or nuts. This way when it is time to sit down for the family holiday meal, you won’t be tempted to eat more than you need.
- Stay well hydrated throughout the day. Sticking with water as much as possible throughout the holidays is a good idea in general, both to make sure that you are well hydrated as well as to make sure that you aren’t drinking too many empty calories.
- Use alternative cooking substitutes. Instead of butter, use healthy oils, like olive oil for cooking meals. Less saturated fat is good for your heart. Check out this article for some healthy cooking ideas.
Stay active. Take a cue from the First Lady, Michelle Obama, and get moving. Physical activity is an essential part of healthy living. Along with healthy eating, it can help prevent a range of chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Adults should get moving for 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week and children should be active for 60 minutes a day.
Practice taking deep breaths. Breathing exercises have been shown again and again to be a powerful tool that helps reduce stress and clear your mind. They aren’t even hard to do! Simply step away to a quiet space and take a few minutes to close your eyes and concentrate on deep, cleansing breaths. This can be a very effective way to manage winter holiday stresses. You can do this as many times as you need to throughout a day, especially during exhausting and overwhelming moments.
- Prevention, prevention, prevention. The last thing you need during the winter holidays is for you or your family members to get sick. There are some common-sense steps to boost your chances for illness-free holidays.
- Make sure you are up-to-date on all your immunizations, especially flu shots. For more information visit the CDC.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
- Don’t hesitate to go to a healthcare provider if you feel depressed. You could just be overwhelmed with all of the activities, or you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder, a depression related to exposure to sunlight tends to hit around this time of year. Whatever the cause, it’s always best to get some advice from a medical professional.
Remember to take your meds. The holidays can be hectic, but it’s important to keep up with any medication or therapy schedules. Setting reminders on your phone is a quick, inexpensive way to remember to take your meds. Don’t forget to be sure to keep your meds up and away and out of sight, especially when travelling and staying as a guest.