Keep calm these holidays

This time of year is a whirlwind of gift-giving, family vacations, holiday parties, and activities galore. And, if you have kids, there’s the added pressure of keeping the little ones entertained for six long weeks of school holidays stretching before you.

While this season will no doubt bring plenty of positive feelings of love, warmth, and cheer, it can also bring increased levels of stress and anxiety for many of us. Excitement and stress are actually pretty closely linked, and some amounts of stress can be good for us (researchers call this positive type of stress “eustress”). But, too much stress can have a very negative impact on our mental and physical health.

Luckily, holiday stress is fairly predictable. Unlike most other types of negative stress that we encounter in life, we tend to know when this crazy period will start and end, and by making an effort to get out in front of it, we can put in place strategies to minimize it.

Eating and drinking:
‘Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry! Unfortunately, there can absolutely be too much of a good thing. The break from our regular routines, plus the daily temptations of rich foods and alcohol on offer at parties, can quickly result in overeating and skipped workouts, leaving us feeling sluggish and less-than-our-best. This year, plan ahead by being aware of your triggers and practice mindful eating and drinking to keep the indulgences to a healthy level. Be sure to keep healthy snacks on hand at all times so you’re not arriving at parties hungry, and increase your water intake alongside your alcohol consumption to keep hangovers to a minimum.

Set your priorities:
Remember, we cannot do everything. And we cannot please everyone. There can be a huge amount of pressure from friends and family at this time of year, and it can be easy to spend the holiday season in a frenzied blur of cooking, baking, shopping, and seeing relatives. This year, before you say “yes” to everything, take time to think about what it is that is really most important to you. Set clear priorities and don’t be afraid of turning down an invitation if you have to. Set a limit for the number of parties you will attend or how many times you will host people in your home. Decide who it is that you really want to spend your time with this Chrismas and if you need to set boundaries with your extended family, do so. You deserve to be able to enjoy a special and joyous time of year, without being totally drained.

Prepare a budget:
There are an endless amount of expenses this time of year.  From maxing out credit cards to falling behind on bills and overspending on gifts, stretched finances over Christmas and the New Year can be a huge contributing factor to feelings of stress. This is where taking a mindful approach to money can really help. Before the Christmas madness sets in, take some time to map out your likely expenses over the holiday period. Work out what you can realistically afford to spend, and set a budget with allocation for each element – from dinners out, to gifts, to holiday groceries. Budgeting might seem like a less-fun way to approach the holidays, but it will allow you to take control over your spending and make a significant reduction in your stress.

Take some time each day to clear your mind and find your balance. Being alone for even just a small amount of time can allow us the space to recharge and reflect. Try to spend at least 15 minutes alone each day doing something you enjoy — whether it’s yoga,  listening to relaxing music, taking a bath, or even getting a massage — taking a little you-time can work wonders in reducing holiday stress. Breathing meditation is a great way to restore calm and balance. Find a quiet spot to sit for ten minutes and focus on slow, steady breaths, while visualizing that you are breathing out the stress, and breathing in the serenity.