Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanza, the holidays can be a great time of joy for many. But for others, they are filled with anxiety and stress. You can set yourself on a more positive path – and bust the holiday stress cycle – when you understand the how to best support your body for joy.
When stress hits at this time of year, it’s easy to turn to that tray of cookies for moral support. After all, cookies won’t criticize you about your choices the way your family will. What we don’t realize is that we are self-medicating with sweets – the quick spike of sugar in our system can bring an increase in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of well-being and happiness. Sadly, the benefit is fleeting, and we find ourselves reaching for another fix.
How do we bust the holiday stress cycle? First admit that it’s a problem, and then consciously choose some strategies to support a different outcome. I am offering you these tips for boosting your energy and outlook through these coming weeks.
Instead of reaching for the holiday goodies when you feel a lag in energy, get outside in the fresh air for a walk, hit the gym, chase your kids in the yard, or just do something physical that appeals to you. You’ll release the stress and the exercise will help release the proper chemicals in your brain to make you feel better.
Workout your mind
Your brain needs exercise too! Rather than allowing your mind to dwell on the negative things that push you toward those cookies, give your mind something constructive to do. Take 10 to 20 minutes to yourself to read something engaging for you, or work on a crossword puzzle or something else that stimulates your mind in an enjoyable way. I use my Sudoku app for this purpose. It will help you feel refreshed.
Focus on healthful eating
While it’s true that the holidays are certainly a time for more indulgent meals, when you focus on your healthful eating prior to those big family dinners, it won’t be such a shock to your waistline. Make sure you’re eating meals that have a small amount of protein, a portion of good fat, minimal grain-based carbs and lots of vegetables. Don’t skip meals. If you starve yourself all day because your job or your family (or both!) is making you nuts, you’re more prone to stuffing yourself at dinner with things that aren’t very healthful.
Yes, there are certainly foods we only get to enjoy during this time of year. But again, eating all of them isn’t going to do any good. So indulge mindfully and moderately. Looking forward to your sister’s famous pecan pie? Then focus on eating that when the time comes and say no to treats that aren’t as delicious.
Forgive yourself and others
No one is perfect. If you find you caved in to peer pressure at work and ate treats you declared you wouldn’t, forgive yourself and move on. Take a deep breath or two and release the situation. Get back on track with the next food choice and move your body. But above all, keep your head up and your focus on gratitude.
Make gratitude your focus
I have noticed that more and more people are recognizing how a gratitude practice is profound in its effects. It isn’t time consuming – you are simply recording 3-5 things for which you are grateful on a daily basis. I have found it helpful to write these on an index card to review throughout the day. Something as simple as being thankful for the poinsettia arrangement my husband brought home, or the uplifting smells of spices, can shift my energy … and yours.
YOU are on my gratitude list. I am thankful for all who recognize that they have a choice related to their health. I’m passionate about encouraging the choices that will support their body and supporting those who prioritize their pursuit of wellness!