Stress Less Through the Holidays

Do the holidays stress you out? They stress me out! Holiday stress has shifted for me since having a child. My main stress pre-motherhood was enduring the busy shopping scene. My stress management technique at that time was: bring wine in a to-go cup! My young twenty-something self thought I was a genius.  At that time, I “needed” it to help me make a decision and tune out the chaos I felt around me (hint: in retrospect, I understand that chaos was more internal). Sometimes I saved ALL of my shopping until the 24th. No wonder why I “needed” a drink! I don’t do any of this anymore, thank goodness!

But just because I don’t do that anymore doesn’t mean I figured out how to make the stress disappear. I’ve nurtured many stress management techniques over the years. In my role as a mother and a start-up business owner, the stress I endure (during the holidays) now circles around following through with fun family traditions, putting up our tree, decorating the house, gift shopping, meanwhile remaining focused on building and growing my nutrition coaching practice on less than 40 hours a week!  Since the week of Thanksgiving, each day we said, “Maybe we can put up our tree and the lights tomorrow!” Then the days just came and went. Making dinner and exercising have taken precedence. Fortunately, the tree went up last weekend! But no sparkling lights on the house yet…. maybe this weekend!

Needless to say, the holiday season comes with its own unique stresses, and no matter what stage of life you’re in, it’s ever-present.

We’re all striving toward a stress-free lifestyle, and for excellent reasons! For one, it doesn’t feel good! But perhaps most important is that stress, naturally, sets off an inflammatory response. And if you’re not relieving your stress in a healthy way, your body remains in a persistent state of inflammation. Why is this a problem?

Poorly managed stress, or inflammation, can result in a multitude of physical problems including hormonal imbalances, poor sleep, increased hunger, weight gain, high blood sugars…simply put…chronic stress is linked  with the development of disease such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, even cancer! And if your desire to stay healthy stems from the desire to live a long and fabulous life, practicing stress-reducing behaviors daily is something you’ll want to engage in right away.

And I’ve got several suggestions to share, but before I get to those, let’s quickly cover what causes stress…

Some things may be obvious: busy schedules, little sleep, persistent worry… But did you know that some ingestible items can cause stress inside your body as well? Added sugars, saturated and trans fats, sodium, alcohol, and smoke-  just to name a few – can also introduce internal stress on your body. But it’s likely you won’t immediately feel the damage being done. Things like aches and pains, cravings, and poor mood are hints that your body, for some time, has been undergoing internal stress. Thus, the importance of nourishing your body well!!

Use the following bullet points below to assist you in determining if your body is under stress. If you can say yes to at least three items, it’s likely your body is enduring stress and can benefit from engaging in a few healing techniques below:

☐ Itchy or restless legs, especially at night
☐ Craving “a little something” (i.e. chocolate, candy or cookies) after each meal
☐ Feeling wired, yet tired
☐ Quickness to anger or rage, demonstrated with frequent yelling
☐ For the ladies, irregular menstrual cycles
☐ Using caffeine to sustain energy
☐ Salt cravings
☐ Feeling dizzy upon standing from sitting or lying down
☐ Difficulty going to sleep, or staying asleep between 1:00 and 4:00 AM
☐ Poor bowel movement activity: i.e. diarrhea alternating with constipation

Did you answer Yes to at least three symptoms?
If so, plan to include one of the following into your day as soon as you can! Your health REALLY matters, and some things on your agenda can wait.
Note: If any of the following techniques do the opposite of relieve your nerves, it’s not for you! Find something you like, and stick with that.

  • Exercise: even going for a 10-minute walk helps!
  • Dance
  • Sing
  • Meditate
  • Listen to feel-good music, something inspiring, or comedic
  • Practice yoga
  • Downsize your to-do list
  • Journal
  • Reduce alcohol
  • Initiate a serious plan to discontinue smoking
  • Eat at least 3 cups veggies and 1 1/2 cups fruit every day
  • Drink at least 64 fl. oz. water every day
  • Stick to a consistent bed-time routine that is limited, if not void, of screen time

What stress management techniques are your fave?

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