This article originally appeared in Reader’s Digest Best Health magazine; I am an “Embrace Life Expert” for their publication and also a wellness columnist. Enjoy – these are some of my best tips for navigating this crazy season and tapping into the joy and peace beyond the busy-ness and pressure.
Every year as the holiday season approaches, I get ready. I’m not talking about making my list and checking it twice, or ensuring I have enough eggnog or wrapping paper on hand. Instead, I commit myself to really enjoying the season. I refuse to be sucked into Christmas chaos, which can cause so much stress on our minds and bodies, and I am determined to fully enjoy the season I’ve loved with all my heart since I was a little girl. Most of the time, it works!
Here are 10 of my favourite seasonal stress-minimizing tips. They work for me, my medical patients and my life-coaching clients—and they can work for you, too.
Watch what you say
When I coach people about how to manage stress, I target their language first. The more you complain about how crazy things are, the crazier you’ll feel. Even if your schedule is bursting at the seams, choose to talk about your life with positive, joyful words when someone asks how you are. Speaking in positive terms is uplifting and good for both mind and body; when we speak negatively, the body “hears” us and perceives it as an additional stress, and that just makes things worse. Obviously, sometimes we need to talk about how stressed we are, but it’s best not to focus on it excessively or habitually. For example, instead of replying to “How are you?” with “I am crazy busy and going nuts!” say “Busy, but happy, thanks!”
Eat and drink to your good health
With the endless holiday treats on offer, it’s tempting to give up on healthy eating in order to indulge. But when you do that, you get the stress of feeling guilty—and you also feel sluggish and tired from too much sugar, fat and alcohol. Fight back by loading up on power foods whenever you can. For example, make yourself a post-party smoothie that is antioxidant-packed with spinach, berries, honey, fresh lemon juice and a chopped apple.
Protect any unscheduled time in your calendar whenever you can. Alternate every night out with a night at home, and don’t try to fit too much into one day. Avoid the pressure of rushing everywhere you need to be by leaving yourself plenty of time to get to places—remind yourself that it’s better to be late than to be stressed once you get there.
Give experiences instead of gifts
My family has been doing this for a while. Forgo the gifts and associated marathon shopping; plan a special dinner or night out with loved ones instead. For even more peace and joy, do it in January.
Take time to really savour the season
One of my favorite holiday stress-busters is a late-night neighbourhood walk in the crisp air, taking in the magic of the stillness and the gorgeous holiday lights. What feels magical about this time of year to you? Make sure you get to experience it.
With so much to do and so much going on, it’s easy to miss the richness of it all. Tune in to the people around you and really be with them, so you don’t miss out on what counts most—after all, how often are you together with the people who matter most to you?
Despite the commercialism and chaos, this can still be a deeply spiritual time of year. Take time to connect with something greater than yourself; it will help you feel calmer and more centred. Spend time in prayer or meditation every day, wrap gifts for a local charity, volunteer at a homeless shelter, buy a gift for a child in need—whatever adds meaning for you.
Follow the “one drink” rule
Despite the warm glow it gives you, alcohol can stimulate stress hormones and interfere with the quality of your sleep. To feel your best and get maximum rest, limit yourself to just one drink per party and stick to yummy non-alcoholic choices the rest of the night.
Get all hands on deck
Put your Superwoman cape away and delegate everything you can. If you’re hosting a party, tell your guests to forget about bringing a hostess gift; ask them to bring a simple appetizer or dessert instead.
Commit to peace, joy and love
Do you always feel anxious because you think you’re supposed to be stressed during the holidays? Maybe you simply don’t need to be. What if, starting this year, the holidays were a time when you proceeded through your days and evenings serenely, and you let go of any pressure you’re supposed to feel? Let’s take the holidays back. Let’s proclaim, and reclaim, peace and joy for all—starting with yourself.
Are there any strategies you’ve found work for you? Let me know in the Comment section below!
And if you’d like to commit to your own growth (joy, peace, love and other good things) for 2014, consider joining my exclusive Live a Life You Love Club – you’ll find more information at www.livealifeyouloveclub.c