With all the cooking, socialising, shopping and gift-giving, the holidays can feel more like trying to finish a marathon, than having time off with family and friends. Trying to meet expectations – real and imagined – can cause stress, and stress can in turn lead us down a path of alcohol, overindulging and retail therapy. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. This year, try these strategies to eliminate holiday season stress.
Avoid overindulging on sweet treats
Get organised and make sure that you always have some healthy snack options at home. That way you are covered for impromptu drop-ins and you have something healthy to bring to social events.
Stick to your normal eating plan as much as you can – 3 meals a day of whole, unprocessed food with sufficient protein. A little bit of treat food here and there won’t make a big difference.
If you slip up, maintain perspective. One day of indulgence is no disaster, as long as you get back on track with your healthy food choices and exercise the next day.
Go for a walk
Exercise is one of the best things you can do to reduce the body’s response to stress. Getting the whole family off the couch for a beach walk, a swim or a bike ride is even better! Research shows that exercising in the green zone – forests, meadows or hills – or by the blue zone – lakes, rivers or the sea – has a significant positive impact on our mental wellbeing.
Slow down and focus on what is most important to you in your life. If you haven’t done any meditation or mindfulness before, start by just sitting in silence and noticing your breath, in and out, just letting your thoughts be. Start by doing this for just 1 minute on the first day.
Then add a minute every day. Eventually, you’ll get to 10 minutes. Once you’ve built the habit and the consistency, try to sustain it for at least 30 days. By the time you get to the end of those 30 days, you’ll most likely find it’s helping bring the stress levels down, and it’s easy!
Limit your alcohol intake
When we’re feeling stressed and tired, it’s tempting to seek relaxation in alcohol. But let’s be honest here, that first glass of wine or beer does momentarily make you feel good. The alcohol has artificially stimulated the ‘pleasure centre’ in the brain but since this has been artificially stimulated, your brain seeks to restore balance, so it releases a chemical downer called dynorphin and as the effects of the first glass wears off, your sense of wellbeing drops below what it was before you had your first drink. So, you reach for another. Alcohol is a depressant. It numbs our senses, we begin to feel detached from reality and we convince ourselves that this is a welcome break from the real world. But as we all know, the stress or the problems we are trying to numb are still right there the next day, and so the cycle starts again.
- Cliff Harvey on mindfulness
Watch this short clip of Clinical Nutritionist Cliff Harvey, talking about how to start a daily mindfulness practice.
- What is alcohol doing to your health?
Health Coach Lisa Burch talks about alcohol and the effect it has on our health, our lives and our mental wellbeing.