How To Enjoy A Stress-Free Holiday
Have you ever felt like fast forwarding through the holidays, or even skipping them altogether?
You’re not alone. In fact, around half of America feel the same way.
Whether it’s party planning or traveling, gift buying or cooking, the holidays take a lot of mental and physical energy.
Having a completely full plate is guaranteed to cause you some stress, which is the last thing you want to feel during the season that’s meant to bring cheer.
Plus, prolonged stress affects nearly every part of your body. It can weaken your immune system, cause stomach ulcers, and result in inflammation in your coronary system, which could even put you at risk for a heart attack.
Your health is never worth stressing over the details of your holiday plans. Take 5 to learn some proven stress-busting methods for the mind, body and soul and go into the season prepared for anything.
Make Room for Productivity
It’s easy to get caught up in the magic of the season and say yes to a bit too much. You could find yourself feeling stretched too thin, which can make it hard to stay focused.
To help yourself find your balance, clear your mind with a Mind Sweep.
The purpose of a Mind Sweep is to empty psychic RAM, also known as the place in your mind that causes a nagging feeling you get each time you accept a task.
Productivity consultant David Allen of Getting Things Done.com says the most important thing to do with the thoughts that bug you is to write them down as quickly as possible, rather than sit and stew.
To do a Mind Sweep, first do a basic list of any tasks that come to mind right away. Start with today only, and include any emails, chores, relaxation breaks, etc.
If you have a planner, review the prior week to remind yourself of any unfinished tasks. Remind yourself not to organize or analyze, just write.
Next, write down any tasks within the next 2 weeks, even if it’s as small as replacing your wine glasses. Think of any recitals or events you’ll need to attend, family items, small repairs and opportunities like trips needing to be booked.
Go through each item and determine if the task is doable within your holiday timeline. If you can accomplish it in 5 minutes or less, do it on the spot. If not, set an alarm to do it later or defer it to someone else.
You’ll be amazed at the difference just 30 minutes of planning can make on your mental organization and focus.
Chances are, meditation has been suggested to you before — and for good reason!
For every piece of the body stress is known to negatively affect, meditation has the opposite effect.
It reduces inflammation, helps indigestion, and even increases grey matter in the brain, which means better sensory perception, memory, and muscle control.
If traditional Zen meditation hasn’t worked for you, experiment with other methods to find a good fit.
If you have issues staying comfortable seated on the floor and focusing on the words of a teacher, you can try a simple mantra meditation in which you get in a comfortable position and spend a few minutes focusing on one word that has to do with your purpose in the moment. This can be as simple as “relaxation” or “inspiration.”
The best times to sit and breathe is at night right before falling asleep, or when you first wake up. These are the moments when less is demanded of you, and your mind is prepared for a reset.
If you find yourself forgetting to meditate throughout the day and feel tension building in your body, remind yourself that you’ll be much more effective through the rest of your day if you allow yourself a 5-10 minute meditation break.
There are countless resources for mini meditations you can bookmark for a quick go-to in moments of looming burn out. Check out our list of effective and easy-to-use meditation resources >
Switch up the snacks
One of the last things you want to worry about during the holidays is more meal prep. But healthy meal prep is one of the best ways to keep your healthy diet on track.
Luckily there are some easy and delicious foods you can snack on that are proven to reduce stress, including blueberries, pistachios, and even dark chocolate.
Many dietary supplements can help fuel your motivation and ease your worries as well. Drop by the vitamin aisle at your local grocer and pick up some vitamins and minerals known to ease the mind such as melatonin to help with sleep, vitamin B for an increase in focus and motivation, or magnesium for general relaxation.
You already know the basic perks of exercise…burning calories, strengthening your muscles, and increased focus. But have you ever thought of using exercise to relax?
Combine this with the proven rewards that enjoying nature provides, and you’ve got yourself a first-aid kit for stress.
Aerobic exercises reduce your level of stress hormones, which means after a spike of good endorphins you feel more relaxed throughout the day. And just 15 minutes of being outside can increase focus and reduce stress.
There are even some bonus health perks associated specifically with winter exercise. The increased effort to stay warm on top of physical activity can help you to burn more calories and strengthen your heart.
Plus, getting some fresh air makes you less likely to get sick this holiday, as you’re taking a break from the recycled air of your home and office. And catching a bit of sun provides a much needed vitamin: vitamin D.
And bringing up your levels of vitamin D helps regulate your inner clock, helping with motivation during the day and a more restful sleep at night.
If your health or circumstances prevent you from being able to do aerobic exercises in a bind, try a method called progressive muscle relaxation, which is the process of focusing on relaxing each muscle one at a time, aligning the movement with your breathing.
This inner massage centers you, acts as a kick-start to self-care, and resets your mind to take on any tasks with a fresh start.
Find a playlist for your mood
Countless studies in neuroscience have proven that music has a profound effect on our moods, memories, even learning abilities.
Feeling a bit scattered? Go for instrumental music, preferably accompanied with sounds of nature.
Catching the winter blues? Pop on some nostalgic music or current favorites to sing along to as you go about your day.
If you’re struggling to make a decision on a playlist or song, use an app or website that will do it for you. You name the mood, and there’s a playlist for it.
Have coffee with a friend
When you’re wrapped up in the whirlwind of the season, it’s easy to lose contact with your pals.
But taking an hour out of your week to spend time with a friend can be a feel-good break from all the holiday bustle.
Hanging out with a close friend or loved one not only provides you with a platform to vent anything that’s weighing on your mind, but it allows you to indulge in the stress relieving methods like hugging or laughing.
Most importantly, being with a loved one outside of holiday obligations serves as a great reminder that you’re not alone this holiday season — especially if you’re missing a deceased loved one during this time.
After all, love is one of life’s greatest motivators.
Now that you’re prepared for the holiday season, use these new stress relieving techniques to help you dive deeper into your life’s purpose and do some soul searching for the upcoming year >
An award-winning journalist, bestselling author, television host, and motivational speaker, Joan Lunden has been a trusted voice in American homes for more than 40 years. For nearly two decades, Lunden greeted viewers each morning on Good Morning America making her the longest running female host ever on early morning television.
She is an ardent health & senior advocate. Joan is the host the PBS television series, Second Opinion with Joan Lunden. She also hosts the Washington Post Podcast series, Caring for Tomorrow on the future of healthcare.
One of the most visible women in America, Lunden has graced the covers of more than 60 magazines and book covers. Her newest book, Why Did I Come into This Room: A Candid Conversation About Aging quickly became a New York Times Best Seller.
Learn more at: joanlunden.com