And just like that, the holidays are knocking on our door. Do we all agree that time speeds up between the beginning of fall and the start of the holiday season? I'm not complaining. I love everything holiday: the food, the traditions, the decorating, the TV specials, the get-togethers. And shopping! I actually don't mind the crowds. Of course it's a different world these days with the need to keep distance, but back in the "olden days," I was more than willing to brave public places in order to soak up some holiday cheer.
While visions of family gatherings, warm fires and merriment come to mind when we think of the holiday season, the reality is that the holidays can be a wee bit chaotic. All those things I mentioned above — the things I love — can also come with their fair share of stress. Plus there's the pressure of fitting all these extras into our already busy schedules. For instance, as a freelancer, I tend to have an especially heavy workload building up to the holidays with my clients trying to meet end-of-year goals. So it's a challenge to do All The Things for my young children, young enough to still see Christmas as a magical time of year.
You won't be surprised to hear that finding balance is the way to minimize stress this season. However, you might need some help figuring out what exactly that means. Enter our Holiday Survival Guide — quick and easy tips to make the holidays even better this year!
5 holiday survival tips to lower your stress
Take a page from Santa’s book and be good (to yourself) for goodness' sake! Build out a schedule that designates which days are dedicated to which activities to avoid last-minute panic. This could include things like holiday parties, gift buying, gift wrapping, and baking. And by all means, plan your meals. You don't necessarily have to do full-blown meal prep, but do make a list each week for dinner—and don't forget to shop accordingly. When evening rolls around and you can glance at that list, knowing what's on the menu for that night, you'll breathe a sigh of relief. Also consider doing curbside pickup or delivery for your groceries. The latter can be a small added expense, but if you can swing it, it will save you so much time.
The holiday hustle and bustle can cut into your sleep time. While you're probably tempted to let that be an "is what it is" type thing, keep in mind that adequate sleep really isn't something you should put aside. There's a cyclical relationship between sleep and stress. When we feel a lot of stress, we don't sleep well. When we don't sleep well, our stress increases.
According to an article at Brain and Behavior1, "Too little sleep affects your mood and can contribute to irritability and sometimes depression. Vital brain functions occur during different stages of sleep that leave you feeling rested and energized and that help you learn and build memories." Inadequate rest will also affect your productivity at work, which will build stress that you'll take home with you. This isn't the state of mind you want to be in during the holidays, so make sure to get your Zs! The CDC recommends seven hours for adults 18-60 and 7-9 for 61 and older.
Exercise is often one of the first casualties when holiday crunch time picks up. You tell yourself you'll get back on the wagon for the New Year, right? Staying active — (to borrow from a social media trend) and I cannot stress this enough — is so very good for you. Regular exercise "boosts your feel-good endorphins."3 So, despite hectic holiday schedules, be sure to maintain some sort of movement.
What does "movement" mean? It will be different for each of us. Take me: I'm a mom of two kids and two big dogs; I manage a full load of clients, I volunteer, I'm the head of our household, and more. Exercise is still a priority for me, regardless of busy days or holidays, but a gym is out of the question. I've found YouTube to be an incredible resource. I subscribe to a few different channels for yoga, HIIT, and hip hop dance. Sometimes I run laps around my house! Rebounding (i.e., jumping on a mini trampoline) is also an excellent way to get moving in your own home. Plus it's easy on the joints and good for bone health.4 Do whatever works best for you.
Fuel your body
If life were a movie, this would be where the plot thickens. Food is inextricably linked to our enjoyment of the holidays. With so many delicious dishes around for weeks on end, it can be hard to stay on track with moderation. What's a person surrounded by holiday cheer to do? Be mindful, that's the key. It's okay to enjoy some of your favorite foods that only come around once a year. Just make sure you're also eating fruits and veggies in a variety of colors to get in your essential vitamins and minerals; lean protein to help keep you satiated; and healthy carbs (like sweet potatoes, rice, legumes) to give you energy. Also avoid skipping meals. It will leave you low on energy and, well, probably pretty hangry...a little Grinchy, if you will.
A study in the American Journal of Public Health showed that "increased fruit and vegetable consumption was predictive of increased happiness, life satisfaction, and well-being." Conversely, reports show that eating foods high in sugar, such as sweets and processed foods, can impair the body’s ability to cope with stress, and bingeing on big meals can leave you feeling lethargic.
It's all about moderation. Enjoy yourself this holiday season while also paying mind to fueling your body with foods that will give you the energy for all that merriment. If you’re worried that you aren't getting enough fruits and veggies, Juice Plus+ capsules are an easy, tasty choice to supplement your daily diet.
During the holidays, time is tight. It's easy to overextend yourself by cooking elaborate meals, searching for the perfect gifts, going to every event, wrapping every gift perfectly. Take it easy on yourself. Look at all your to-do's and break down your musts and your wants. Decide to focus on the former more than the latter.
Think about how you can enjoy the holidays in simpler ways. You don't have to bake a dozen different cookies. You don't have to bake any, actually, but if you want to, pick a few of our favorites and leave it at that. Throw in a batch of no-bake peanut butter oatmeal mounds to really simplify your kitchen time. Reconsider gift giving: No one will love you less if you don't spend your Saturday scouring the shops or the internet for something fantastic. In fact, go ahead and do your holiday shopping online. No one will be the wiser! Instead of a flurry of events, de-clutter schedule — take in the season by walking through your neighborhood on a quiet evening or take a drive to see the lights.
It's all about the exhale this holiday season
Taking stock of your needs during the holidays will help you avoid holiday-induced stress. When it comes down to it, there are no rules for how to do the holidays. If you're feeling overwhelmed, create new traditions or simply skip out on the things that are putting too much pressure on you. Make the holidays your own!