6 Stress-Busting Tips to Keep Your Holidays HappyNone By Derrick Carpenter
The holiday season may be wonderful, but it can also be the most stressful time of the year. To make sure you’re enjoying real moments of happiness in the weeks to come, take steps to be proactive about managing your stress to avoid exhaustion, frustration, and disappointment. These 6 tips will help you to overcome the all-too-familiar holiday burnout and stay happy and healthy, straight into the New Year.
Stress-Busting Tip #1: Stay Active
Exercise is probably the best way to fight back against stress. But let’s admit it. If a regular fitness routine is a struggle the rest of the year, cold weather, heavy meals, and hectic schedules only make it worse. If you find that your holiday festivities leave you mostly sedentary, create new traditions that get your heart pumping. Play a game of two-hand-touch football with the family. Meet your friend for a yoga class before you take on the mall. Or pre-gift yourself a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps a day, which might mean strolling around the block catching up with your sister before everyone sits down for dinner.
Stress-Busting Tip #2: Be a Secret Santa
Giving is its own gift. Beyond all the obligatory giving that’s expected of you this season, find an opportunity to do a secret good deed for someone who deserves it. Whether it’s for your partner or a neighbor you barely know, perform an act of kindness that you can finish without being caught. Shovel the snow from someone else’s driveway. Tuck a coffee shop gift card under a windshield wiper with an anonymous note. You get the point.
Stress-Busting Tip #3: Get Your Hands Dirty
However you like to get creative, make time to put your talents to use to create something this holiday season. Just for the fun of it. Paint a holiday-themed picture for above the fireplace. Create a 5-minute edited film of your kids to send to the grandparents. Or write a short story about the penguins who invented snow to read to your nieces. Have fun and let the joy of the season carry you past any perfectionism that might normally hold you back.
Stress-Busting Tip #4: Eat with Intention
Anyone who tells you to avoid holiday treats altogether deserves coal in their stocking. But too much of a good thing—especially when its Aunt Sue’s pumpkin pie—will zap your natural energy before antacids can restore it. Be mindful about what you choose to eat over the next few weeks, knowing that every indulgence will affect your body the way it always does. Try keeping a glass of water in your hand this year so that you stay well hydrated and as a reminder to choose your snacks wisely.
Stress-Busting Tip #5: See the Light
Something is bound to go wrong in your holiday festivities. A shopping list item that’s out of stock. A toppled glass of wine. A burnt casserole when your guests are already on their way. Know that the stressful moments are a given, but your response to them is not. If you’re prone to a short fuse, practice seeing the situation from a more lighthearted perspective. Laugh, when possible, and recognize that what’s going wrong doesn’t overshadow what’s going right.
Stress-Busting Tip #6: Embrace the Love
Sometimes, the stresses we face around the holidays are too big to manage just by thinking about them differently. Whether financial struggles loom, relationships are wearing thin, or we can’t help but focus on the empty seat at the dinner table this year, there are always reasons to be grateful. The holidays present opportunities to gather with those who love and support us. Reflecting on the love in our lives can be a powerful reminder that no matter what trials we face, we’re going to be okay.
Derrick Carpenter, MAPP, coaches individuals on living engaged and inspired lives, runs experiential corporate leadership programs, and trains US Army personnel on resilience. He's researched what makes people great in psychology labs at Harvard, Yale, and UPenn, where he received his Master of Applied Positive Psychology.
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