Tag Archives: holiday stress relief

3 Stress Fighting Strategies for Holiday Happiness

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Holiday stress can accumulate like presents under a Christmas tree.  Even when we work hard and shop smart we still find ourselves crunched for time and stressed to find the “right” gifts before Christmas.  And the thought of shopping through the herds of people and wait in lines for hours just doesn’t seem too merry. On top of that, you’re hosting Christmas this year and you know what that means…cleaning, cooking, more cooking, more cleaning and at least a full day with the in-laws (eeeek!).

Tis the season they say. But, instead of feeling all jolly, you’re out of energy, worn down to your last nerve and filled with daily anxiety. As we splurge on gifts for the ones we love, in the back of our mind we are dreading that next credit card statement.  Even if you were lucky enough to land some black Friday deals there is still much too do. joy

Just the thought of all of these obligation may have you asking, “where’s the joy in that?” The holidays are meant to be special, gratifying and memorable. So if you’re committed to making this season meaningful then you’ll need ways to shake off the stress (inspired by Taylor Swift). Here’s a few tips to enjoy a peaceful, joyful and happy holidays.

GIVING

The simplest acts of generosity alone are stress busters. You might think giving more of your time, money and energy to others would increase stress, however there are several studies that prove giving is good for your health. Research has shown that when you give it can improve mental well-being by decreasing stress, anxiety and depression. Here are a few ways you can give this holiday:

  • Homemade gifts/Handwritten cards– you don’t have to go to great lengths in order to touch another’s heart. Personalized gifts are often the most memorable.
  • Donate– charitable giving has been shown to bring people more happiness than any other type of giving. You choose the charity or organization you care for most and it’s a win-win.
  • Adopt a family– many don’t have the opportunity to experience the joy of the season. It’s hard to find something more humbling than supplying gifts or donating Christmas dinner for a family.
  • Spontaneity– surprise a stranger by paying their cab, tab or buying them a cup of coffee. Or, help a friend with housework, child care or running errands. You’re unplanned generosity can easily be a happiness amplifier.

CONNECTING
Spending time with the ones you love is the top priority for the holidays. Instead of all the aesthetics if you can focus on what’s most important you’ll feel the stress just melt away. Here are a few ways to connect more and stress less:

  • Plan together– hosting Christmas is a great way to connect with family, but don’t shoulder all the load & expectations (now that’s stressful). Never hosted? Ask for help (Grandma’s are the best mentors). Ask extended family to bring side dishes, games and their favorite movies, and have the immediate family help with groceries and decorating the house. This not only relieves stress, but can build a deeper family bond.
  • Work together– connecting with friends for gift shopping, wrapping and decorating can keep you connected and energized while knocking off those holiday to-dos.
  • Play together– I mentioned family games and movies, but also enjoying other traditions like caroling, sledding or ice skating are great ways to keep stress on the wraps. These help to infuse your holidays with memorable stories, laughter, interaction and friendly competition.

REFLECTING
Taking care of yourself cannot be forgotten during the busy season and regardless of your schedule it’s always important to stay rested, hydrated, and nourished while keeping your peace of mind. Try these to remain happy and calm:

  • Meditation– you’re going to need sleep, focus and patience during the chaos and craziness of the holidays and meditation is the key to eliminating many of the stressors this time of year so you can.
  • Nourishment ninja– set and honor a plan that pleases and serves you. You can still fulfill your taste buds without overindulging and being swayed by social expectations. Use a pre-planned, “no-thank you”, excuse to minimize the temptations and traditions.
  • Workout pancakes– don’t waffle on your decision to workout. Utilize your workouts to offset certain indulgences and keep yourself energized and confident. Pancake parties and heavy eating days between workout days. Mix heavy resistance training, sprinting and yoga to keep the mind and body primed.
  • Unplug– put away the electronics…no TV, cell phone, tablets, laptops, etc. My favorite is turning off all the lights except the Christmas tree lights, grab a warm cup of tea or cocoa, wrap up in some warm blankets and relax in the dark (occasionally I’d listen to light X-mas music). The goal is to create a quiet, peaceful and calming place for you to relax.

There you have it…your guide to holiday season sanity. Steer clear of holiday stress with these tips and you’re bound to rediscover the true meaning of the holidays.

P.S. Share the gift of giving by inviting a friend, colleague or family member to join the Wake Up with Fire community.

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A Terrific Way to Minimize Holiday Stress

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Year after year you read the statistics about stress and its detrimental effects during the holidays.  Studies show holiday stress increases your chances for weight gain, heart attack and depression during the holiday season.  It’s fairly easy to understand these outcomes and relate to the stress when your typical week (or maybe only a day or a few hours) during the holidays entails getting the kids ready, taking your pet to the vet, preparing for work, completing a business project, getting your oil changed, having team meetings, handling customer concerns, getting a gift for your co-worker (secret santa), preparing holiday meals, traveling for business negotiations, attending important social events, shopping & wrapping gifts (all while keeping them secret), traveling to family gatherings, creating new content & products, picking out the perfect ham, Christmas tree or New Year’s party, dealing with the annoying brother or the nagging in-laws, hosting the annual holiday workshop and on and on and on.

Does that sound like your holiday stress?

Holiday Scrooge…Bahhh Humbug

Ok, you get it and if you are like me then I’m sure around the holidays your responsibilities see a drastic increase both at work and in your personal life.  Unfortunately, during these times of heightened responsibility is when we let ourselves slide most.  Letting ourselves go is often the conductor of holiday stress.

What I mean is not getting sleep, exercise, good eats (I mean healthy when I say good) and not allotting me time can really wear on you both physically & psychologically.  You see I once thought just the same as you…”here comes the holidays, here comes the stress.”  That was until I began noticing that I had become Scrooge himself.

At first I found myself very irritated with all the time constraints and outside “demands” from work, family and friends.  I became downright angry and annoyed (picture red faced with steam coming from the ears like a cartoon kind of pissed) because I believed I had to run around doing all of the above. I was boiling inside…unable to complete anything in one sitting (often only 30-60 minute time blocks) because of constant interruptions.

Next, I felt unknowingly selfish.  I was complaining (mostly to myself) about getting gifts for others and going to events which had no major benefit to me.  Then, I became shut down (not quite depressed) and I began to cold-shoulder everyone.  I was grumpy and short if I did respond, angered almost as though they were bothering me.  That’s the gist and it wasn’t good to say the least.

In the long run of it, I gained weight (probably about 15-20lbs of fat) and isolated myself from my friends and family thinking it would make me feel better.  Truth was I felt worse, all of the consequences and more piled on…tired, weak, alone and still packed with holiday stress.

A Reality Check

A few days after the New Year, I was working with a client discussing her first quarter goals right after we finished discussing how happy we were that the holiday stress was gone.  It was then when I noticed for every goal she brought up she had something negative to go along with it.

It was then I said, “Stop.”  She looked at me perplexed and asked, “What?”  “Are you listening to yourself? How will you ever achieve anything with an attitude of everything being too stressful or too difficult?” I said.  She responded, “Ok Mr. Grinch! A minute ago you were just talking the same about the holidays?”

BAM! It was an instant subconscious slap in the face.

It was after our conversation on my 40 minute drive home that I began to reflect on how I viewed the holidays and then replayed the holidays back in my head over and over.  It was after nearly a week of continued reflection that I began a mission to forever eliminate what was holiday stress.

My Seasons of Change

I spent the next 9 months dissecting my actions, thoughts and perspective during the past holiday seasons.  I quickly realized several things which I will share in a moment, but first food for thought.  I have come to believe that the holidays are strategically planned to relieve stress not cause it.  Take a look…

First; Halloween is a time of funny, ridiculous costumes, exciting social gatherings and sharing candy and stories with children.  Does that sound stressful?  Not so much.  Maybe too much candy can cause digestive stress and add some weight, but if you’re dancing at the costume parties and walking the kiddos around the block trick or treating then you’re bound to fight the gain and maybe even shed a few.

Next, Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude, appreciation and giving thanks.  Add an extended weekend of spending time with family & friends, highly competitive football games and delicious food, we’re practically in heaven.  Can you picture that being stressful?  Once again a little too much of the wrong foods could do damage, but the annual neighborhood Thanksgiving football game really takes care of that.

Third, Christmas is a time of giving gifts to those who mean the most, sharing wonderful acts of love under the mistletoe and extended time off work.  I mean how can you go wrong with sledding, making snowmen and having family snowball wars together with your kin?  Stressed? I think not.

Lastly, New Year’s is the icing on the cake.  NYE is one big party and if anything did go wrong previously you can start anew in the morning.  Tell me that doesn’t scream stress relief.

If I still haven’t changed your mind here is a terrific way you can tweak your holiday mindset to minimize stress:

A New Attitude

If you couldn’t tell by the above paragraph, how I view the holidays now is much different than I used to.  It may not seem like much, however your perspective of the holidays can drastically decrease stress.  Studies have shown that gratitude and a positive mindset can decrease stress and high cortisol levels that typically accompany a stress response.

The effects of extended bouts of stress can be detrimental to your health, not to mention your relationships.  An optimistic mindset alone can have life-changing effects on you.  Here is how you can put it into practice…spend about 15-30 minutes prior to bed reflecting on your day and focusing on two things:

1. Visualize or write– Visualize or replay in your head the 3-12 most enjoyable moments of the day.  This reminds and helps you to really appreciate all the wonderful experiences you had today.  If you want to take it to another level journal about these special times.  The journal comes in handy in times of struggle or anytime when you need a quick pick-me-up, you can always come back to review it.  Or you can use it as a guide to help build future outcomes and make important decisions. When doing these exercises ask yourself these 4 key questions:

  • Who or what inspired me today?
  • Who or what made me smile, feel loved or touched?
  • What was the best experience I had today?
  • How or where can I add more of these into my future?

2. Re-wrap with Appreciation- Reflect back on one bad moment, preferably the worst of your day and “re-wrap” the moment or thought with a positive outcome.  Take it to the next level by visualizing the best possible outcome, appreciating the lesson you can learn from it and how you will do it different the next time.

I’ll leave you with this…You are blessed with only so much time on earth.  Time with your family and friends is even more limited when you take into account your daily responsibilities.  The holidays are a time to relax, celebrate and enjoy having family and friends around.

Find appreciation for this time, show how much you care for those closest to you and share these special moments with them fully expressed and grateful not angry, depressed or anxious because of holiday stress.  Take the time to practice the attitude of gratitude exercise with at least one special moment a day.  You’ll notice increased holiday happiness, a heightened attention for things you appreciate and your stress will begin to diminish.

What other ways do you use to alleviate stress?  What other methods do you practice to show appreciation & gratitude?

 

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