The holiday season can be mentally and physically draining. But if you make time for yourself, you can stay mentally sharp and physically fit when dealing with the season's stressors.
If you find yourself getting stressed out, stop and breathe. Yes, breathe. “Take a minute to breathe deeply. To breathe properly you should breathe in to 2/3rds full, hold the breath for a moment, and then exhale completely,” advises Lynn Rossy, PhD, a health psychologist at the University of Missouri. “While you're exhaling, tell yourself something positive like´I'm going to choose to be happy´.“
“If you deep breathe a few times a day, this small act can actually bring down blood pressure and calm anxious feelings,” agrees stress-relief expert and holistic nutritionist Rosalie Moscoe, author of Frazzled Hurried Woman! Your Stress Relief Guide to Thriving. . .Not Merely Surviving. And you can do stress-relieving breathing anywhere—including the elevator. “If you find yourself rushing to an appointment, use your time in transit to calm and center yourself. Do some deep breathing during the elevator ride up to calm your mind, center your thoughts, and focus on what you need to accomplish in that meeting,” explains workplace expert and executive coach Susan Steinbrecher. “It's easy to do and it works - anytime and anywhere.”
Relax your mind through meditation, even in the office. “Meditate at work,” says Steinbrecher. “Get into the habit of putting 5-10 minutes aside each day to meditate at your place of work. Use an empty conference room, a quiet stairwell, or do a walking meditation outside during a break or at lunch. Make that appointment with yourself and don't miss it."
And it may be a cliche, but make time to smell the roses. “Be mindful,” Steinbrecher points out. “After you've finished your daily 'mini' meditation at the office, stay mindful. Smell the coffee brewing. Note the color of the light filling the building, the sounds of birds singing outside the windows, or the laughter down the hall. Attune your mind to what is going on around you at all times.”
Unplug and take a mini break from technology. “Put your computer and your cell phone away for the evening. Be present with the people and activities that are important to you outside of work,” offers Rossy, who blogs weekly about mindful eating and living philosophy at www.TastingMindfulness.com .
If you manage your time correctly, it can relieve a lot of stress. You won´t be worried about running late and trying to rush to catch up. “Get hold of your day - become more organized. Make a list the night before of all the things you need to do the next day. Decide when you can do those chores and mark it in your calendar,” suggest Moscoe. “Don't drive from one end of the city to the other the same afternoon or evening. Try to schedule stops around the same areas if possible.”
When shopping, don't throw healthy eating out of the window. Skip the junk food at the mall and bring along healthy snacks. “Bring a water bottle with you to keep hydrated. Keep healthy snacks in your bag, in your car - almonds, an apple, cashews and some dried cranberries, a healthful power bar,” says Moscoe. “Have protein at each meal, vegetables and fruit every day and healthy fats such as olive oil, raw nuts and seeds, avocado, coconut oil.” If you can, skip the shopping center all together--do your gift shopping online. If you have to hit the stores, be prepared and improvise. “Shop at off-peak hours," reveals Amanda Little, who runs the health and wellness site HealthyHerLiving.com. “It may seem less convenient to shop early in the morning or late at night, but it's well worth the tiny inconvenience. Why? Because, if you shop at the same time as the other hundred people who happen to choose the same store as you in your city, you're setting yourself up for a dirty store, tons of people, and even more cold/flu germs floating around."
Hold your temper even when the crowds get to you. “It's easy to get frustrated when the woman behind you rudely hits the back of your feet with her cart. It's understandable to want to strangle the lady who lets all three of her friends in front of her in the line at sears,” says Little. Instead stay calm and polite. “The reason you want to be polite is because anger and defensiveness breed anger and defensiveness. People are already stressed out, don't give them another reason to stay and argue with you for 15 minutes, or want to do something spiteful because you made them mad,” she explains.
Don't burn the midnight oil putting in extra work, wrapping gifts or writing Christmas cards. Make sure to get plenty of sleep. “Your mood will improve, you'll boost your immune system and be more able to cope with a hectic schedule or sometimes stressful family parties,” says Moscoe.
And of course, continue your exercise routine. “Keep up your fitness routine. Too many people use the holidays as an excuse to stop exercising when in reality, it’s when many of us need it most. So keep going to the gym or out for that morning walk,” notes fitness guru Debbie Rosas, co-creator and co-founder of fitness program the Nia technique. And if you are in an exercise slump, make exercise fun and do whenever and wherever you can. “Make exercise part of the holidays instead of it being something extra you do. Do a fun run or walk with the family like the Turkey Trot or the Jingle Bell Run or whatever your area offers. Hike out into a Christmas tree farm and cut down your own tree. Take the family sledding or skiing or snowboarding or even dog sledding,” says Rosas. “Exercise while you're doing holiday activities. Take the stairs instead of the elevator at the mall and park in the farthest space from the door at the grocery store. Go up on your toes when you’re cooking and then bend your knees down to a squat and repeat. Do legs lifts while you're on the phone. Whatever you do, just keep moving. No matter what else you're doing, if your body can move, move it.”
When you are at the company Christmas party or celebrating with family and friends, watch your alcohol intake. “Drink one glass of water to every glass of wine, beer, or other alcohol. Holding a glass at a party is a habit that some of us find very hard to break,” says Rosas. ”So after every drink containing alcohol, have a glass of water before you have another alcoholic one."
Lastly, during this season of giving, give back to the community. “Volunteer,” says Susan, “Besides feeling good about yourself for doing something for others, giving back is also good for your physical health. Studies have shown a relationship between volunteering and increased self-esteem, with volunteers reporting both greater personal empowerment and better health. Doing for others may stimulate the release of endorphins, which has been linked to improved nervous and immune system functions, too.”