The holiday season is something most people start looking forward to long before the Halloween candy has gone stale. For many, though, it quickly turns into a season that is a lot more fun to anticipate than actually be in the midst of, due to all the extra stress “the most wonderful time of the year” tends to bring.
However, by shifting your mindset and not completely abandoning healthy habits (yes, it’s possible even during the holidays), your emotional, mental and physical well-being won’t take such a beating.
Finding your happy place
While we tend to think of others during the holidays, you shouldn’t neglect your own personal needs. Michael Davis, a chaplain at Baylor Jack and Jane Hamilton Heart and Vascular Hospital who has studied depression, recommends taking time to focus on yourself.
“I think maintaining a sense of balance and focusing on the things important to you…having a steady sense of pleasure and accomplishment is really, really important to our own relaxation,” Davis said.
To help keep you from getting overwhelmed, try this quick and easy idea as you plan for the holidays. Get a sheet of paper and divide it into four columns. From left to right, label the columns:
- What I used to do
- What I need to do
- What I want to do
- What I will do
Fill out each column.
“It can be a kind of compass to plan your strategies for the holidays,” Davis said. “It can help you get a sense about where you want to go, what’s important to you and maintaining that focus.”
Often, by the time you realize you are stressed out, it’s already taken a toll on your body, mood and perhaps those around you. That’s why Justin Walters, CSCS, manager of strength and conditioning at the Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center, emphasizes taking preventive measures.
“My advice is to try and stay in front of it through diet, through exercise and through hobbies,” Walters said.
“Working out releases chemicals that access the pleasure centers of the brain, similar to whenever you eat chocolate,” he said.
Working out is a great way to blow some tension off and relax, due to the chemical reaction it can trigger in the brain.
The type of physical activity that may help prevent or relieve stress is not nearly as rigorous — or time-consuming — as what may be needed to lose weight or get in shape. It can be as simple as standing up every couple of hours and doing a few stretching exercises that take only a few minutes. The goal is to get the blood flowing and joints moving.
“Just getting up, getting moving, taking some breaths can have a huge effect on your day, how you perceive your day and your attitude throughout the day,” Walters said.
So, for less stress, give these simple ideas a try this holiday season. You may even find they become the gift that keeps on giving all year long.
Finding it difficult to manage your stress? Talk to a doctor.