Decorating trees, exchanging gifts, and spending time with loved ones: There are so many reasons why ’tis the season to be jolly. But, although the holiday season is a magical time, it can also bring about unwanted stress.
Affinity Health gives tips on maintaining your mental well-being and keeping stress in check during this period.
Stress is your body’s way of responding to a challenge or threat. Once you sense danger, the body’s defences kick into high gear resulting in an automatic process called the ‘fight-or-flight’ mechanism.
Your nervous system releases a flood of stress hormones. As a result, your heart beats faster, your muscles tighten, your blood pressure rises, your breath quickens, and your senses become heightened.
“While stress is a natural part of life, chronic stress shouldn’t be. Chronic stress can suppress your immune system, upset your digestive and reproductive systems, increase the danger of heart attack and stroke, and speed up the ageing process,” said Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.
“Even though you can’t eliminate stress from your life, you can avoid stress triggers and manage how much stress affects you.”
December is often a difficult time of year. Whether it’s depression, family drama, anxiety, or stress, the holiday blues can be difficult to beat.
The good news is that there are ways to help make the holidays happier and less stressful.
Take time for yourself
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can quickly become overwhelming, creating the perfect environment for anxiety to flourish. While our minds are preoccupied with plans with friends and family, we often forget about ourselves. Taking a moment to breathe and relax can help reduce stress. Treat yourself to a massage, an hour at the salon, or even a few uninterrupted minutes to read a book or soak in a warm bath.
Keep it affordable
Many people find themselves financially stressed during the holidays as the cost of presents, decorations, food, and parties mount. While it’s tempting to overspend this time of year, the last thing you want is to go into 2021 with debt and a bad credit record. The key to limiting financial stress is ensuring you have a budget in place – and sticking to it.
Have reasonable holiday expectations
When it comes to the holidays, expectations can be high. We want everything to be perfect. In an ideal world, unfortunate events would have no place at the holiday dinner table, but life happens, and things don’t always go as planned. Keep in mind that life is unpredictable, no matter the time of year.
Avoid negative people
Let’s be honest: Certain people can be triggering and detrimental to our mental health. The holidays can bring up our own feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress, so it may be a good idea to avoid those who are continually spreading negativity. Instead, surround yourself with people who lift you and make you happy.
Be grateful for those around you
Sadly, holidays can be a painful reminder of those we love who are no longer with us. Although others will not fill the void left by your loved ones’ absence, it is essential to remember that you have other people who love and care about you. Be grateful for the friends and family who are able to share the holidays with you.
Spend time in nature
Studies show that being in nature is a great way to reduce tension, anxiety, and stress. Try spending an hour or two a day outside. Go for a walk, take the kids for a family picnic, or plant a few bulbs in your garden. It’s not so much what you do, but more about getting some fresh air and feeling the warmth of the sun on your face.
Don’t abandon healthy habits
Holidays are often an excuse to overindulge, but doing so may add to your stress and make you feel guilty. While it’s okay to treat yourself every so often, try and stick to healthy habits as best you can. These include:
- Getting at least eight hours of sleep a night
- Including regular physical activity in your daily routine
- Trying deep-breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga
- Limiting tobacco and alcohol use
- Sticking to a healthy eating plan during the week and save weekends for treats
If you feel lonely or stressed, seek community, religious or other social events or communities that can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time and ‘paying it forward’ is also is a great way to lift your spirits and widen your friendships. Consider volunteering at an animal shelter, visiting a retirement village, or assisting at a soup kitchen for the homeless.
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