Oh, the holidays! For some, it’s their favorite time of year. For others, it’s a time to just try to make it through without a catastrophic meltdown. The holidays can be particularly challenging due to new obstacles being thrown on top of daily stressors - such as an increased frequency of parties, heightened social expectations, reunions with family members, financial strains, and increased focus on particular foods. It’s enough to make a lady want to climb in bed and hibernate ‘til January 2nd. But if hibernating isn’t in the cards, what are some alternatives?
1. Learn how to say no.
Did you know that you don’t actually have to go to every social engagement? I know, me either. You can say no and it doesn’t have to be a big deal. Do your best to put space between the moment of invite and the decision of an RSVP. Collect all of your options, and then figure out how many events per week is realistic. Then, pick a few, and don’t let FOMO win.
2. Make a food plan.
A lot of people struggle with their relationship with food around the holidays, throwing all sense of reason out the window. With extra parties and more fun food to go around, normalized eating goes sideways. Plan for regular meals and snacks, and try your best to keep your meals consistent with what you are used to during the rest of the year. Don’t skip meals and snacks to “save up” for meals at parties. Doing this will increase your hunger, and your ability to make reasonable food choices will be more challenging. Enjoy the foods offered, and if you tend to struggle more with food and body issues, seek support this season.
3. Commit to making sleep a priority.
We all know that we tend to get more irritable and cranky when we don’t get enough sleep. During the holidays is not the time to see if you can survive on less sleep than the rest of the year. If anything, you may need more rest. A well-rested you is essential for staying calm and logical during those conversations around the holiday table that can get intense.
4. Move your body.
Don’t throw your movement routine out the window, even though it tends to be the first thing to go when a schedule gets filled up. Regular, joyful movement helps to decrease stress and improve mood. If you’re in an area of the country where you can get outside to get some vitamin D, even better!
5. Manage your mind.
We brush our teeth before they start to decay, but we often don’t take care of our mental and emotional health on a regular basis to ensure that we’re setting ourselves up for success. Find something that helps you maintain your mental health as best you can whether it be through therapy, coaching, journaling, or getting involved in a community. Investing in your emotional well-being will repay you more than you can imagine.
6. Practice gratitude.
We can easily get distracted by our own stressors that we forget what all we have to be thankful for. Every morning, you can do a thought-download and find a way to reframe one stressor into a thankful thought. If you are stressed about getting all of your gifts purchased on time or within budget, maybe reframe that to being grateful that you have people you love in your life, and resources to be able to give them gifts this year. If you’re stressed with how many parties you’re invited to and how to say no, be grateful for friends and the opportunities to connect. Even if you feel like your circumstances are not the best, you can find a way to practice gratitude. I dare you.
7. Utilize positive coping skills.
Many of us turn to our old ways of coping during heightened levels of stress, or when reentering our childhood dynamics. Even if we’ve made progress with not using food to cope with emotions, we may find ourselves back to using food once more. Compassionately ask yourself as sweetly as you can, “What’s wrong love?” and discover what you are feeling. Perhaps you are lonely and you are trying to use food to solve it. Food can decrease the feeling of loneliness temporarily, but it cannot solve the emotion. What could you do instead if you are feeling lonely? Could you call a friend? Ask someone for a hug? Experiment with coping techniques that don’t involve a buffer to the root issue. And when you aren’t able to, show yourself immense grace.
Remember, you are allowed to feel stressed and anxious right now. Resisting the emotion is worse than feeling the emotion itself. Allow it to be there, and know that this too shall pass. You’re doing the best that you can. Put a priority on taking care of yourself during this season - it will allow you to enjoy it far more!
Illustrations by: Morgan Jamison