Be merry, not stressed this holiday season!

Categories: Mindfulness

Stress!  Simply the thought or word alone seems to convey the lurking feelings of “overwhelmed” and “impending doom,” especially around the holidays.  In fact, stress is more in your control than you may think.  We are all constantly pressured with varying degrees of what we label as “stress”.  This stress affects our daily lives both mentally and physically.

When was the last time you thought about your stress management strategies? Do you have any? Are they effective? Why are some people good at handling stress and others not so much?

We have previously discussed the importance of mindset here and its role in stress management and even your health! Stress is normal and even necessary as our brains are wired to respond to it.  The tricky part is to find that optimal balance. The key to effective stress management is to realize that stress is subjective and a reaction to any sort of stimulus in your life.  Additionally, you can control how you respond. While easier said than done, the following strategies are helpful for encompassing successful stress management techniques.  It is important to note they might seem self-explanatory but the challenge is to find out when to utilize them particularly in stressful situations and how can you get better at them.

Gratitudegetting connected with yourself and meaningful relationships in life is more than just a good thing to do to distract you from the stressors of daily life.  A daily practice of gratitude has been shown to improve mood, energy and physical well-being.  It even reduces the levels of cortisol, a common stress hormone. For a practical way to implement this strategy in your daily life try the 5-minute journal (https://www.intelligentchange.com/products/the-five-minute-journal).  It is a simple and actionable method to implement this strategy.

Sleep – If you are having poor quality sleep or are not sleeping enough, your brain will never get a chance to recharge and build up its resilience for the next day.  If things are on your mind, write them down and tell yourself you will address them the next day.  Limiting your screen time an hour before bed and establishing a routine will help improve your sleep quality.

Reframing – If you are feeling stressed from something, try to identify how you can change your perception of it. A useful exercise is to identify what the “stressor” is, draw a circle on a piece of paper and write down everything you can control about it inside the circle and everything you cannot control or influence on the outside. Also, it can be helpful to ask yourself questions such as: How does this current stress compare to a past stress? What opportunity does this present that I haven’t realized yet? Is there humor in this situation? What can I do about this stressor? Do not ask yourself “what if scenarios”.  They do not allow any actionable steps forward in managing the stressor.

Exercise We often talk a lot about the importance of exercise but this can be a great way to allow you to unplug from everyday life. Something as simple as a brisk 10-15 minute walk is a great place to start.  A simple yet challenging exercise you can implement throughout the day is to be mindful of your breathing.  Try focusing on your breath for 1-2 minutes.  You can also try taking 1 breath for 30 seconds and focus solely on breathing in and out deeply. How does it feel? Is it easy or difficult? Are breaths short and shallow? Do you find your mind wandering being sidetracked by a task or thought?

Keep this tips in mind as you enjoy the holiday season this year!