I love the holiday season -- the coziness, the food, the time with friends and fam. Ahh magic!
But somewhere along the way this little gremlin called stress can sneak into our lives this time of year, which may leave us feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or even stuck.
Stress is a complex, weird creature that can be caused by so many factors. Becoming aware of this stress is a huge first step, but to take things a step further, here are 8 stress-easing tools you may find helpful in the coming weeks (and year-round).
1. check in with yourself: how am I feeling?
Sometimes feelings of guilt/stress/anxiety can creep up around holiday eating, whether it's because you’re eating different or more foods than you typically do, or maybe you’re having a few more cocktails than normal, or something else. All of this is totally OK, and the feelings of guilt are totally OK. Simply recognizing these feelings exist, however, helps put you in a more mindful mindset. So before, during and after meals that feel particularly stressful, anxious, or guilt-ridden, do a quick mental check in: How am I feeling right now?
Any answer is completely valid.
I work 1:1 with women to dive deeper into the “whys” behind how they’re feeling, but the purpose of this exercise is to simply become a little bit more mindful of how you’re feeling, mentally and physically, so you’re more in tune with your body.
2. slow down while eating
Purposely slowing down while eating has a lot of mental and physical benefits, but here are a few:
- It helps increase satisfaction. Food is a source of fuel and pleasure, and when we take the time to actually experience the food we’re chewing, we can fully experience the taste, smell and texture of a particular food and enjoy the pleasure it brings us. Slow down, enjoy, and put yourself fully in that experience.
- It helps bridge the gap between when our stomachs are full and when our brains realize this. Try putting down your fork and taking a breathe between bites. Eating super quickly can not only decrease satisfaction, but it can also more easily lead to that feeling of uncomfortably stuffed, which may bring about feelings of stress or guilt.
3. eat when you’re hungry
I used to skip breakfast or restrict calories throughout the holidays to make up for the eating I’d do at parties or on holidays. Sound familiar?
I talked about this in my post about eating with ease, and I wanted to mention it again because it’s that important. Our bodies are hungry for a reason (they need fuel), and depriving ourselves of food can lead to that unhealthy relationship with food and contribute to physical issues like low blood sugar, dizziness, anxiety, and unnecessary stress.
Restriction and deprivation may also lead to that ravenous feeling when you could eat literally anything just to satisfy the intense physical (and mental) hunger. When we experience this feeling, it becomes pretty challenging to stay in tune with our bodies -- like realizing hunger and fullness cues and listening to what our bodies are craving.
So let’s keep this simple: eat when you’re hungry. Your body knows what’s up.
4. prioritize mindful movement
Mindful movement is exercising/working out/moving our bodies in ways that actually feel good and are in tune with our bodies’ needs at any given time. Every single body is built differently, so of course we’re going to move them in different ways.
What feels good in my body may not feel good in yours! The point is to figure out what type of movement feels good to you, mentally and physically, so you can reap all the amazing benefits. Prioritizing movement is an incredible act of self-care, because it helps decrease stress, boost moods, and increase energy and focus (and more). So whatever type of movement works for you, try keeping it top of mind, especially during stressful periods.
5. prioritize sleep
Sleep and stress are in a two-way-street-type of relationship. Stress tends to affect sleep (ability to sleep + quality), and sleep deprivation can lead to a poor stress response (like freaking out over no biggie-type things). So, when you feel stress start to creep up, try getting a few extra minutes or hours of sleep.
Winding down at night and setting the tone for bedtime can be really helpful in letting your brain know it’s time to chill out and rest. You may find it beneficial to create a calming nighttime routine like journaling, taking a bath or listening to a guided meditation. Whatever helps you feel calm and relaxed, do that.
6. set aside quiet time
Obligations can pile up pretty quickly during the holidays, which is why purposeful quiet time can be really grounding. It’s a great opportunity to check in with yourself every day:
How am I feeling?
What’s coming up for me?
What do I need?
This “quiet time” can be be as long or as short as you want, doing anything that helps you access that self check-in. Some of my favorites are going for a walk and silencing my phone, taking a bath or listening to calming music.
7. create a gratitude practice
Especially this time of year, there’s a lot of talk about gratitude, and while it may be easy to brush off, there really IS something to it! Focusing on the positive, what’s great in our lives, what we DO have helps to reduce stress and tends to put things into perspective when we’re in a whirlwind of overwhelm. There’s always, always something to be grateful for, big or small.
If you’re interested, here’s an easy way to start practicing this: Every morning and every night, try naming out loud 3 things you’re grateful for. You can also write them down, creating a gratitude journal you can re-read anytime you need a reminder of what’s good in your life.
8. step away from technology
I think practicing presence or the idea of “be here now” takes time and effort, especially when we’re constantly being bombarded with emails and texts and TV and Instagram notifications and… so much. If we’re not aware of it, this can pretty easily lead to feelings of overwhelm and stress and totally take us out of the present moment!
A big (and simple) move is to step away. Sign out of social media for a few days. Put away your phone during family parties. Turn off the TV and really be in the present moment. Focusing on the here and now can be a big stress reliever.
As you navigate stress throughout the holidays (and beyond), experiment to see which of these tools work best for you. Incorporate anything off this list that works for you, too! And remember: deep breathes. :)