Who doesn’t love the holidays? After all, they call it the most wonderful time of the year for a reason. And with all the parties, presents, food and music it’s easy to see why.
But the truth is, as much as we look forward to these couple of months, stress and anxiety is a reality this time of year too.
From November through New Year’s, it can feel as if there’s too much to do and too little time to do it in. And you’re not being a Grinch if you find you’re feeling the pressure.
Feeling tense and worried all the time makes it impossible to enjoy the season you’ve been waiting for all year long. Which is why it’s so important to remember to put yourself first during the holidays.
Beat stress and anxiety this holiday season
Following are six simple, but effective, steps you can take to stop stress and anxiety from destroying your holidays again this year.
1. Set a budget:
Setting a budget—and actually sticking to it—is one of the most effective moves you can make to dial down holiday stress and anxiety. Financial strain can hit you like a ton of bricks over Christmas, contributing to depression and anxiety. Experts say it can even raise your risk of a heart attack (yikes!).
Don’t make yourself sick by over-extending during this season. Instead, figure out a budget that won’t put a strain on your finances. And vow to leave your credit cards in your wallet. Using cash to pay for your purchases will help you avoid being tempted to overspend.
2. Take “me” time:
Family, friends, your job and charity work all make demands on you during the holidays. And no matter how much you enjoy spending time on all of those things, you can easily get stretched too thin triggering stress and anxiety.
Which is why it’s critical to schedule in some “me” time too.
Find 20 minutes every day to focus on yourself. According to the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine that’s all it takes to turn off the tension. Spend that time alone, relaxing and perhaps doing some deep breathing. Then you can return to the real world feeling refreshed and ready to take on the holiday hustle and bustle once more.
3. See the light:
The shorter days in fall and winter can increase the feeling that you’re racing against the clock. And the shortage of sunlight, combined with holiday stress and anxiety, can trigger seasonal affective disorder.
To counter the effects of SAD, make sure you spend some time outside in the sunlight every day. Even though sunshine spreads out and becomes less intense in the winter, research has shown that bundling up and getting out into it for an hour or so can make a huge difference in your mood.
Try taking a walk at lunch every day. If you find that’s still not enough, Healthier Talk contributor Dr. Glenn Rothfeld suggests using a UV light box, as well.
(For more tips on beating SAD check out our special report 5 natural ways to ward off seasonal depression.)
4. Seek out orange and lemon scents:
Pine and cinnamon are classic holiday scents. But when you’re battling the pressure of the season it turns out citrus smells can help restore your holiday spirits. Several studies, including one from the Mayo Clinic and another out of Northumbria University in Britain, have revealed citrus scents can help soothe stress and anxiety, while lifting your mood.
Boil citrus peel on the stove for a homemade, all-natural air freshener. Or sprinkle a few drops of 100 percent pure orange or lemon essential oil on a handkerchief for stress relief on the go. (Careful, they may stain some fabrics.)
5. Stop skipping exercise:
Sure, you’re busy and on the go this time of year. But that doesn’t mean you should skip your morning walk or evening aerobics class. Errands count towards your daily activity levels, but it takes a cardio workout to help reduce stress and anxiety.
Studies show that regular exercise helps lower cortisol levels, the stress hormone. Plus exercise will boost your endorphins, your body’s natural pain killers and antidepressants.
6. Go 80-20:
You already know that eating healthy foods doesn’t just keep you physically fit. A balanced diet full of fresh, healthy organic foods helps keep you mentally strong as well. And that doesn’t change just because there are more goodies around.
But you don’t have to deprive yourself of every treat, either. Eighty percent of the time, eat the way you know helps you feel good physically and mentally. But then give in and indulge 20 percent of the time.
You’ll get the nutrition you need to stay happy and centered, and still get the once-a-year treats that make the holidays special. It’s the best of both worlds.
Make sure this holiday season truly is the most wonderful time of year by taking these six simple steps to beat holiday stress and anxiety.