The holiday season can bring out the best and worst of a person. While some can’t wait to spread the good cheer, others are more “bah humbug!” Not surprisingly we may find ourselves feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or both this time of year. There is inadvertent pressure to be on top of things, whether you celebrate the holidays or not. We want to take this time to remind you that you are in charge of your life and the path you choose. It is unnecessary to ride the “stress train” with the majority of society. You don’t need to “keep up with the Joneses” or anyone else for that matter. You just need to honor yourself today, right now. Here are some tips to take the stress out of the holidays.
1. Just say no, thank you. Let’s face it, we can’t be everything to everyone and we can’t be everywhere that friends or coworkers want us to be. Something’s gotta give and boundaries need to be established. Don’t want to go to that office party? Say, “No, thank you.” Can’t make another batch of cookies for the cookie swap? “No, thank you.” Offered another glass of eggnog or another batch of homemade fudge? You know what to do and say. It’s okay to politely decline. In fact, it’s empowering; you should try it.
2. Take care of yourself first. If we let ourselves get run down by running ourselves ragged, we won’t be feeling up to any of the celebrations. Set aside time each day just for you. Take a hot bath. Nurture a cup of tea. Read a few chapters of a good book. Take a 20-minute nap or meditate. Just slow down for some personal time.
3. Be prepared. You never know when you might be stuck in traffic or in a long line at the store. Don’t let your blood sugar get the best of you. Always keep healthy snacks nearby – in your purse or backpack, whatever works. Best choices include raw nuts and seeds, protein-based snack bars, fresh fruit (apples are nice and portable), and nutritional beverages like mix1. Also, stay hydrated by always carrying water with you.
4. Get some exercise every day. Whether you wake up early to sweat or you squeeze in lunch break workout or after work spin class, make sure you do something to move your body daily. Exercise is one of the best antidote to depression.
5. Eat your greens. Add an extra serving of kale, broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, collard greens or bok choy to your daily plan. You’ll help support your immune system and your body will be grateful for the extra nutrition you are providing during the more stressful times. No time to sauté or steam? Try adding some powdered greens to a quick smoothie. Add protein powder and frozen berries for a powerhouse breakfast or on the go snack.
6. Make lists. Making a daily checklist for your day is always a good idea but especially during hectic times when we’re likely to forget half the things we set out to do. Include everything from exercise to drinking enough water – keep track with hash marks so you’ll know when you’ve hit your goal. Take your list with you when you head to the mall or to the grocery store. This way you won’t be shopping mindlessly. You’ll be more focused and less likely to overspend or buy things on a whim.
7. Up your vitamin D3. Many of us, in fact most of us, do not get adequate amounts of vitamin D. It is difficult to get through the diet in the first place but since we spend most of our wintertime indoors, access to sunlight is also compromised. The suggested minimum daily dose is 800 IU, though some doctors will recommend at least 1000 IU of D3 daily. Vitamin D3 helps support the immune system, bones, and may help prevent certain cancers.
8. Seek community. Connecting with others – friends, family, spiritual community – on your terms can help decrease stress. Volunteering with a local charity or food bank is another way to be in community and serving others at the same time. Relationships that drain your energy should be avoided. You don’t need people bringing you down. Surround yourself with positive, optimistic folks who help you to feel good about yourself, your life and all that you do.
9. Be consistent with your diet and eat normally. In anticipation of an all-out binge fest, we often go without eating all day thinking we’re doing ourselves a favor. Then we arrive at the anticipated event ravenous and going for all the instant gratification finds like chips, cheese and crackers, and fried hors d’oeuvres. Instead, eat some healthy snacks with protein, healthy fats and fiber throughout the day. You are less likely to pig out later and regret the overindulgence. Don’t arrive hungry. Eat a light snack before you go so that you don’t gorge on chips and dips right when you get there. Go easy on the alcohol or skip it altogether. Drinking not only puts you at risk for driving under the influence, it adds extra empty calories to the mix.
10. Be grateful. Now more than ever is an amazing time to be on the planet. That doesn’t mean we are without our fair share of concern or the world is in a perfect place, but we do indeed have much to be grateful for. Focus on that. Focus on what’s going well in your life. Write it down. Write down at least 5 things that you are grateful for every night before you go to sleep. What we focus on expands. Focus on the good, be grateful for all that you are and allow that to grow your life into the New Year.
About: Dr. James Rouse is a naturopathic doctor and expert in functional and lifestyle medicine. An author of nine books, host and founder of Optimum Wellness Media, and Ironman triathlete, James has coached Fortune 50 and 500 companies, MLB and NFL teams, several branches of US Government and consults for companies including BackJoy, SKOOP and Kroger Grocery. He has shared his message to audiences in the US, Europe and Asia.