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How to Minimize Stress and Master the Holidays

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

It goes without saying that the holidays are a busy time. In addition to typical daily life, there’s partying, traveling, spending, socializing, and the list goes on. Many would say the chaos of it all is worth it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to minimize the stress and relax. Whether it means reducing or increasing one’s social interactions, there are ways to feel fulfilled rather than drained by the time New Year’s comes around.

Firstly, what exactly are your sources of holiday stress? One source may be simpler than you’d think: doing too much. Yes, it’s obvious, but let me explain. Naturally, when met with a rather exciting or interesting activity, we often opt to participate in it. While doing good and fun things are, well, good and fun, having too many good things going on can lead to stress and a lack of time to decompress.

Another stressor may be the overwhelming obligations and the temptation to overindulge, such as excessive eating, drinking, and spending. Too much of any of these things could lead to debt, weight gain, or embarrassing memories.

Furthermore, balancing alone time with together time becomes significantly more difficult for many during the holidays. Family time is a wonderful thing, but being around others for too long without proper rest takes some of the enjoyment out of being with loved ones.

On the other side are those who are not with family during the holidays. While many are getting together with those they love, some might become more aware of their loneliness and feel left out.

During this time of year, symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may occur. While it can come on subtly with the season’s transition from fall to winter, more time spent indoors because of colder weather brings out this form of depression, invoking seemingly sudden bursts of unhappiness and/or stress.

Despite these concerns, there are still ways to be on top of one’s mental health during this time of year. Here are some useful tricks for mastering the holidays, stress-free:

Keep a Journal

Keep a journal, or at least write things down, an age-old trick to maintain healthy stress levels. Keeping track of finances, plans, and obligations is a surefire way to stop stress dead in its tracks.

Remain Disciplined

Remaining disciplined is key to mastering holiday overindulgence. Remind yourself not to have eggnog and cookies with every meal. This saves us from guilty feelings later on. There is nothing wrong with saying “no” to tentative plans or an extra drink. Staying fit and leaving space for alone time is worth it in the long run.

Balance is Key

Being burnt out halfway through December sucks, even if it means sacrificing potential plans with friends and family. They can wait for another day. No one is fun to be around when they are tired or stressed. Besides, spending a day during the holidays to curl up with a warm blanket and a book is a fun idea in itself.


References

Scott, Elizabeth. “How to Manage the Inevitable Holiday Season Stress.” Verywell Mind, Verywell Mind, 24 June 2019, www.verywellmind.com/understanding-and-managing-holiday-stress-3145230.

“6 Tips for Managing Holiday Stress.” Healthline, Healthline, www.healthline.com/health/holiday-stress#tips.

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The Perfect Morning Routine

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By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

Mornings are not always easy. If you need to get up early for work or other commitments or were up late and did not get much sleep, mornings may be your worst enemy. Developing a healthy routine in the morning can help you feel ready for the day ahead, even when your body is telling you to go back to bed. Not everyone’s routine will look the same, but there are a few practices you should follow that will allow your body to wake up and be ready to tackle the day.

Practice Mindfulness
Incorporate at least one mindful activity into your routine each day. Mindfulness means bringing awareness to the present moment. Your focus should be centered on your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment through a nurturing lens. Doing one routine activity mindfully each morning can help shift your attention away from any ruminating thoughts and into the present moment. Being more present can help you increase positive emotions and reduce negative emotions. By focusing your attention on something positive, we are allowing ourselves to let go of stress and feel prepared to face the day.

To practice mindfulness, choose one activity and complete that activity mindfully. You could brush your teeth; take a shower or bath; or get dressed while focusing your full attention on that activity. Making mindfulness part of your daily routine will allow the skills associated with mindfulness to grow stronger so you can more easily access those skills when needed in other capacities.

Slow Down
Another important concept to include in your morning routine is to not multi-task. If you are like many people, your daily routine is already fast-paced and stressful. One way that I incorporate slowing down into my morning routine is by sitting down to eat my breakfast. I used to grab my breakfast and eat it on my way out the door, which caused me to feel stressed and rushed before even getting to work. By slowing down my morning activities like eating breakfast, I can better manage my mood and feel more in control of my emotions.

Give Gratitude
One of the most important things you can do for yourself each day is to practice gratitude. In the morning, before getting out of bed, list two to three things you are currently grateful for in your life. It may seem inauthentic at first, but there is science that supports the many positive benefits for your mind and body that practicing gratitude will bring. Incorporating a regular gratitude practice to your routine can significantly increase well-being, life satisfaction, quality of sleep, immune health, compassion, and kindness. The more regularly you give gratitude, the stronger gratitude will grow. Giving gratitude each morning will help you start the day with a positive mood, even when you may be dreading the day that lies ahead of you.


References

Mindfulness Defined. (n.d.) Retrieved July 31, 2019, from
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition

Carpenter, D. (2019) The Science Behind Gratitude (and How It Can Change Your Life)
Retrieved from https://www.happify.com/hd/the-science-behind-gratitude/

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