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Stress Less this Holiday Season

woman relaxing on couch at night with holiday lights in the background

For many, the holiday season is filled with both joy and chronic stress. Stress is a natural reaction to life experiences that is unavoidable at times. Short periods of stress are handled well by the body, but extended periods of elevated stress can negatively affect both your physical and mental health. According to research, one way to boost your well-being is by exhibiting helping behaviors towards others, such as giving to people who are less fortunate. On the other hand, if you tend to give too much of yourself during the holidays, this may be increasing your stress level. Here are some simple ways to reduce your stress by putting yourself first this season, while keeping up your holiday spirit.

Take Back Your Time

One of the biggest holiday stressors is scheduling, so try taking back time for yourself where you can:

  • If you find sending out holiday cards to be a chore, simply take a break from it this year. You could instead call those closest to you to catch up and wish them happy holidays.

  • When gift shopping starts eating up too much of your time, try choosing a go-to gift that several people on your list may enjoy and buy it in bulk. For example a cozy blanket or reusable water bottle or coffee mug. Another option: give gift cards to allow them to pick their own gift!

  • Start saying no. If you tend to spread yourself too thin during the holiday season, try politely turning down some holiday engagements or extra projects at work to avoid burn out.

Practice Daily Acts of Self-Care

Carving out time for self-care is important year-round, especially in times of high-stress. Try practicing these acts of self-care:

  • Care for your body—eat healthfully, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep.

  • Care for your inner self—learn to practice mindfulness and meditation to reduce stress. Seek therapy if you find it difficult to manage your mood or emotions.

  • Schedule breaks for self-care, like stepping outside for a walk or playing with your pet.

  • Organize your living space, try setting aside 10 to 15 minutes each day to put items away and reduce clutter.

  • Plan a self-care date regularly where you treat yourself to something you find to be relaxing, such as a massage, a warm bath, or a phone call with a loved one.

Spread Holiday Cheer

Spreading holiday cheer for yourself and others can help make the holiday season full of joy instead of stress. Try these tips for keeping up your holiday spirit:

  • Practice an act of kindness, such as addressing a thank-you card to your mail-person or doing something neighborly.

  • Listen to fun holiday music or watch holiday movies you enjoy.

  • Make a point to schedule time with friends or family—whether in person or virtually.

  • Decorate your living space with whatever brings you joy. Perhaps hang holiday lights inside your home to help it feel warm and cheery.

  • Make a special holiday dish or baked good, if you enjoy cooking.

Focus on What’s Important

During the holidays, it is easy to get wrapped up in thinking about everyone else and find yourself struggling to manage stress. Try focusing more attention on what’s truly important to you during the holiday season. This may be practicing holiday traditions or creating new ones with friends or family. Maybe it’s volunteering at your local soup kitchen or picking out gifts for children in need. There is no wrong way to spend the holidays. If you are feeling stressed, make yourself a priority—try taking back your time, practicing self-care, and spreading cheer for yourself and others this holiday season.

Learn more about Wellness Workdays and our wellness program offerings by downloading our brochure.

Written by: Kelsey Masso, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern



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