For some, the holidays bring about a feeling of happiness and warmth. It’s the overall atmosphere with chestnuts roasting, marshmallows toasting, and twinkling lights everywhere. You feel giddy like a kid and want to embrace the feeling of nostalgia, reminiscing on memories from previous years while making new memories that will last a lifetime. However, this isn’t how everyone feels. For some, this time of year brings about stress, more so than usual, and the dreadful holiday blues. Unfortunately, holiday stress around this time of year can amplify depression in those already struggling with mental illnesses.
Whether it be extra stress, the inability to be with friends or family, or grieving over lost loved ones, numerous factors can cause the holiday blues and make it difficult for someone to embrace the season joyfully. According to a study conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of people with a diagnosed mental illness struggle with the holiday blues, and 24% say the holidays affect them a lot. Similarly, those struggling with depression may be familiar with Seasonal Affective Disorder, which the National Institute of Mental Health refers to as depressive episodes that come and go with the seasons, typically with the colder seasons like late fall and winter.
Although the holiday blues are temporary, they can be physically and mentally damaging. With excess pressure from work and family, this time of year can take a toll on people with symptoms like fatigue, a drop in energy, loneliness, and irritability, among other things. However, the holiday blues can be avoided with the help of a clear mindset and strategy to get you back on your feet.
You can avoid the stress of the season by utilizing your time and making a schedule that you will stick to, clearing your head and taking time for yourself by doing meditation and yoga, exercising by going for a walk or doing a fun run (bonus points for fresh air and Vitamin D) and catching up on some much-needed sleep. To help you fight these seasonal blues, we’ve put together a guide to relieving stress during the holidays.
Step One: Increase Your Exercise in Creative Ways, Like Participating in a Fun Run!
Over ten years ago, the American Psychological Association (APA) surveyed holiday stress and its effect on the lives of many. Study results prove that people typically turn to food due to excess pressure. This isn’t unexpected, considering many look forward to the comfort food that fills our homes during the warmer months and the extra leftovers you’ll probably eat for at least the following week or two. The most exciting part about the study was that the percentage of people who turn to food during the holidays increases, with comfort eating being 10% higher for women and 6% higher for men.
The constant pressure of meeting work deadlines, cooking, cleaning, and shopping for presents can be a lot to handle. People tend to forget to care for their bodies; instead, the stress will break them down psychologically and physically. From the same study, those facing this increased holiday stress noted various stress-causing symptoms. It was pointed out that 59% of people reported feeling nervous or sad, 55% lacked motivation and energy, 51% felt fatigued, and 48% felt muscular tension. Though various things could cause these symptoms, there are plenty of ways to lift your spirits, and one of the most important things you can do is get fresh air and exercise.
Take one step out your door, breathe in some fresh air, and take advantage of the natural sunlight surrounding you. Arguably, Vitamin D is the most essential vitamin as it’s good for your overall health and strengthens your bones. If you lack it, there’s a good chance you will also feel the same symptoms as listed above. Getting yourself out in the open for a few minutes a day will make a difference, as your body gets Vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun. Sure, you could take vitamins to help as well, but you can also use this time to take a break from your work and stretch your legs.
But what if you need something more than just a brisk walk — something that’s more challenging and will provide more fun? Two words: fun run! Unlike a 5k, 10k, half marathon, or marathon, fun runs are non-competitive, making it more enjoyable for someone who is participating. There’s no added stress to beat other runners or win a specific ranking. Instead, use a fun run to do something out of the box with friends or reconnect with yourself! From color runs to pet-friendly runs and everything in between, use this as an opportunity to push yourself physically in a way you probably wouldn’t have before. The best part is the many runs you can participate in nationwide, including in your neighborhood.
For additional reasons to check out a fun run, you can read our Top 5 Reasons Participating In A Fun Run Can Help Relieve Stress This Holiday Season.
Step Two: Channel Your Inner Om With Some Yoga
If you struggle with a mental illness, at some point, you have been told to try yoga as a form of de-stressing, and for excellent reason. In addition to helping increase flexibility and muscle tone, yoga can improve conditions like insomnia, reduce blood pressure, and relieve anxiety and depression. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH), those who practice yoga regularly do so to relieve stress and enhance quality of life.
When done correctly and with a well-trained instructor, yoga can have both mental and physical benefits. We recently uncovered the Top 5 Unexpected Health Benefits of Practicing Yoga: reducing inflammation, clearing your skin, and experiencing greater self-acceptance. Something is empowering about yoga and becoming one with your body that cannot be explained. Through the techniques you typically learn in a class, you become more aware of not only the way your body moves but also the way it feels. You become more in tune with yourself, and knowing how far you can push your body while understanding your limits is pretty empowering.
If you have already tried yoga in the past and are looking for something a little different, we highly suggest Hot Yoga. With the cold winter months fast approaching and the ever-changing weather, Hot Yoga presents something new to the table since it takes place in heated rooms ranging from 95-105 degrees Fahrenheit (yes, really). If you love snuggling up and staying warm in the winter, this is a great workout that will allow you to keep warm while fighting those solemn holiday-induced stressors.
If you need more reasons to convince you to try this steamy practice, check out our Top 5 Ways Hot Yoga Can De-Stress (And Warm You Up) This Holiday Season.
Step Three: Clear Your Mind with Some Thoughtful Meditation
While yoga is a great way to balance yourself physically and mentally, meditation is another way to help reduce stress. Just a few years ago, NIH released a study that stated nearly 18 million adults and just over 927,000 children practice meditation as a way of managing pain and stress rather than using medication or other treatments that may not be as effective. Typically focused on one’s breathing, meditation is all about removing any distracting thoughts and feelings. Instead, focus on the present and what is happening at the moment.
With the stress and blues due to the holidays, incorporating self-care activities is necessary to keep you level-headed and help you feel like your best self. We live in a society constantly surrounded by media, whether from our televisions, computers, or phones. Most people wake up and immediately turn on one of the three before having a chance to make themselves breakfast, coffee, or even a nice cup of tea.
If you start your day this way, we highly suggest being open to change and incorporating meditation. Whether it be 10 minutes or a half hour, giving yourself time to refocus and clear your head is sure to be a way to get you into a new-found productive routine. We recently uncovered the Top 5 Ways Morning Meditation Makes For A Calmer Day, including improving your energy, productivity, and sleep schedule. Creating a routine like this takes time, but once you can open yourself to this mindset, you’ll find that things will turn out for the best.
However, incorporating meditation into your morning routine isn’t the only way it can help reduce stress this holiday season. Psychology Today has shared that meditation not only curbs your stress but also plays a role in shifting your mood and bringing about positivity. It may be hard to believe, but meditation is so powerful that it can be as impactful as an actual vacation.
We recently uncovered the Top 5 Reasons Why Meditation Can Help Relieve Stress This Holiday Season, which also touches on the fact that it gives you better focus, clarity, and positivity. When you allow yourself to be open to a technique like meditation that helps to keep you grounded, you will become more aware of your work and how you do it over time. Rather than embracing the negativity that comes with stress and letting it bring you down, do the opposite and use positivity as a driving force!
Step Four: Don’t Neglect Your Precious Sleep!
Since we were little, we have always been told that our body needs roughly eight hours of sleep. Although this does change depending on your age, eight hours is a general rule of thumb, and sleep plays a vital role in our lives. It helps us to recharge, and, according to NIH, over time, it will help protect our mental and physical health, quality of life, and safety. If you are not sleeping the right amount of hours and dealing with immense stress, your body will start to shut down. Over time, lack of sleep will cause issues with controlling your feelings, being attentive at work, and even making ordinary decisions.
Sticking to a healthy sleep pattern is necessary to embrace the holiday season and relieve stress. The best way to get into a routine is to plan and give yourself time to wind down before falling asleep. Complete whatever work you have left for the day, or make notes on what you have to do for the following day so that you have a schedule to follow. Then turn off your phone, or at least move it away from you, and give yourself a break from technology. Prep your skin with your nightly regimen, brush your teeth, and then figure out what room temperature you feel most comfortable in before hopping into bed. Some people prefer heavy blankets or weighted ones to help relieve anxiety, while others prefer a down comforter and wearing socks to be friendly and toasty.
Whatever your preference is, give yourself a five to 15-minute window to unwind and destress a little to help have a good night’s sleep. If you need help with a sleep schedule, iPhone users can try the Bedtime section of the Clock app on their phone. After you answer a few simple questions, you can put in what time you’d like to aim at falling asleep and your desired wake-up time. You can set it every day or a few days a week to get yourself into a sleep schedule.
Once you find a routine that works best for you and stick to it, you’ll notice a change in how you feel. We recently uncovered the Top 5 Reasons Why More Sleep Means Less Stress During The Holiday Season. Trust us when we say you’ll feel happier, refreshed, and more alert than you were after catching up on the sleep your body most likely lacked. If you also have incredibly dark circles or skin concerns, catching up on sleep will help all around, as it’s one of the best things you can do for your skin and body!
Step Five: Prioritize Holiday Tasks with Better Time Management
The holidays can be fun, but with added work, family, and friends pressures, managing time and sticking to a schedule can be challenging. We often find ourselves taking on more than we can handle because we want to impress others or challenge ourselves, but we don’t realize the amount of stress we take on. Over time, that plays a huge factor in why it’s difficult for people to enjoy the season of happiness, thanks, and love. However, with the help of some better time management skills, it will become increasingly easier to get a grip on everything, including work projects, gift shopping, and holiday cooking.
We recently compiled a list of the Top 5 Reasons Why Better Time Management Leads To Less Stress During The Holidays. The list touches on a few things you will benefit from once you learn to manage your time effectively. Whether staying organized, being more productive, or preventing burnout, you must work to enjoy your time with loved ones. If you take on a lot but still want to experience what the holidays offer, we highly suggest getting a planner. Could you go through your tasks and lay them out in order based on priority? It’s possible that you could eliminate some stress by multi-tasking or eliminating things that are simply unnecessary and can wait a few weeks until the madness of the holidays has passed. We may think we’re superheroes, but even they need a break sometimes!
If you still find yourself in a pickle and can’t delegate your time effectively, check out these Top 5 Games That Can Make Time Management Fun. Finding a game to occupy your time may seem unnecessary, but it will allow you to hone in on your time management skills and have a bit of fun at the same time. Try something like Airport Mania 2, where you can run your airport, or Jojo’s Fashion Show, where you can design clothes and organize a fashion show, or the ever-popular Diner Dash, where you can run a diner, seat customers, and deliver orders within a set time. After all, the holiday season is about having fun and feeling like a kid again, so why not play some games that utilize time management like you should in your daily life?
There’s no doubt about it: the holidays can be a stressful time. It’s challenging to enjoy a season that can be so joyous when we take on more than we can handle because we feel the pressure to challenge ourselves daily. When it comes to the holidays, don’t let the stress and the blues get you down. Instead, figure out what you can incorporate into your routine, like fun runs, yoga, meditation, and time management, to give you a clearer perspective on things and some time for yourself. Catch up on all the sleep you can, and remember that by utilizing some of these stress relievers, you’ll be able to enjoy the atmosphere and experiences that the holidays bring fully!