How to enjoy a stress-free holiday season.
Dr Leanne Wall shares her 7 tips on staying healthy and happy this holiday season.
I’m sitting at a local café in sunny Byron Bay as I write this article. My second gin and tonic from a local distillery tastes divine, and I’m seriously thinking about having a third. The gin is so light and refreshing and its holiday time isn’t it? Whether it is that 3rd cold beer or that added portion of chips on the side haven’t I earned it? What is a little bit of indulgence and haven’t I worked my butt off in anticipation of these few weeks off over the festive season? Sound familiar?
In all seriousness, the silly season can be a time of fun and celebration however it can also take its toll on our physical, emotional and mental health. Spending time with that relative who gets under our skin can be exhausting. Managing a packed calendar of lunches with those ‘have to see friends because we haven’t seen them for a whole year’ and those end-of-year work functions filled with small talk can be energy sapping. Not to mention the financial pressures of paying the shopping and vacation bills. In fact, this end of year holiday season can be even more stressful than day-to-day life.
RECOGNISE IF YOU ARE STRESSED
Feeling stressed or anxious on an ongoing basis is not normal. Mild to moderate stress for short periods with time for recuperation can see us perform at our best, both at work and at home. However, moderate to severe stress with no recovery can wreak havoc on our health. Stress shows up in lots of different ways from having trouble sleeping and overeating to feeling fatigued, headachy, moody, irritated and impatient. Perhaps we find ourselves getting upset at the slightest thing.
If this is you or you catch yourself feeling stressed over the holidays, there are so many ways you can help relieve your stress. Here are some tips to help you take care of your overall wellbeing through the holidays.
- GET ACTIVE
Walking for 30 minutes a day a few times a week is a tremendous short-term de-stressor. Gentle exercise is all you need to see a benefit. Take the dog for a walk or walk with a family member or friend, stroll on the beach or join in with holiday fun and games. If you need your own headspace then walk on your own and even better in a park surrounded by nature. Keeping active will not only make you physically fitter and stronger but will lift your mood and improve your self-esteem.
- HEALTHY EATING
Your overall wellbeing and mood can be improved by the nutritional quality of the food you put in your mouth. Not only will this increase your energy levels and your motivation, but it will get rid of that sluggish feeling that we often have over the holidays.
Take time out to sit and do nothing. “ponder your naval” as my father used to say. Exercising regularly and making an effort to relax more, can help reduce the signs of stress and help you gain more control when having to deal with stressful situations. Start with listening to relaxing music, a meditation CD and/or practising controlled breathing. Research shows that by slowing our breath, we switch on our rest and digest nervous system allowing us to relax.
Sleep is crucial for long-term stress management, as it allows the brain to replenish its energy. Try and establish a routine for bedtime. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. If you are struggling to sleep in general, keep this routine up on the weekends too. This will help train your brain to sleep. Try not to drink alcohol before bed, eat large meals or watch TV in bed. Relaxing and exercise will also help you get a better night’s sleep.
Humans are DNA wired to connect! Connecting with others is showing to be essential to improving our mental and emotional wellbeing. Maybe catch-up with a friend or family member that you have neglected this year. Take an interest in other people and if you are feeling down because you are not with your family (or you are), try and make time to give to others by volunteering for a worthy cause.
- SET YOURSELF A CHALLENGE
Set yourself a goal that is achievable over the holiday period, and that is not related to work. Make sure it is realistic and will challenge you but won’t run you ragged. Maybe pick up a hobby you used to enjoy that you have let slip or perhaps taking up something new that you have always wanted to do.
- DRINK SENSIBLY
It would be remiss of me not to end with a tip on sensible drinking. Remember that alcohol acts as a depressant and drinking too much can cause low mood, irritability and in some aggressive behaviour. Try and enjoy alcohol, not ‘use’ it to relax and space out. Take notice and be aware of why and how much you are drinking.
Whatever your plans, I wish you a fabulously relaxing break filled with fun, excitement and adventure with people you love. Make great memories and having some luxurious idle downtime. Remember life is not a dress rehearsal! On that note, I will refrain from ordering that 3rd gin and tonic and instead go for a gentle stroll on the beach.