Heartful Tips for a Stress-Free Season

By: Monika Sharma, Psy.D.

The holiday season is upon us.  It can be a joyful time for many, but it comes with the cost of added stress for most.  We’re faced with colder weather, a busier social schedule, end-of-the-year deadlines, hosting family and large gatherings, having the kids home for their break, travel, and trying to shop within a budget.  No wonder the holiday season tests our patience, wallets, and time-management skills! Here are some tips to help keep you healthy in mind and body through the next few months.

1.   Your Self

·       Prioritize a regular sleep schedule, aiming for 7-8 hours each night.

·       Exercise regularly to minimize stress, regulate energy, and release those feel-good hormones!

·       Eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet that includes healthy carbohydrates (e.g., whole grains, legumes, vegetables & fruits), lean proteins (e.g., fish, eggs, soy, low-fat dairy), and healthy fats (e.g., nuts, avocados, olive oil).  Don’t forget to drink plenty of water in the dry winter months!

·       Add supplements such as Vitamin D, which is deficient due to lack of sunlight, and Omega-3, which helps regulate your body’s neurological system and moods.

·       Limit sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and overeating, which are all forms of “self-medicating” and can ultimately lead to mood swings, energy highs and crashes, and weight gain.

·       Mind your thoughts and honor your limits.  Don’t pressure yourself to take on more than necessary or for the sake of other people at the cost of yourself.  We are hard-wired to move a little slower during the cold season and shorter daylight hours.

·       Maintain a sense of humor.  Learning to let things go and laugh have wonderful hormonal and emotional benefits.

·       Breathe.  Slow down. Feel your body.  Take the opportunity to detach from the situation and reconnect with your self.  Be in the moment. Rarely is a situation trulya crisis.

2.    Your Environment

·       Get more light.  If experiencing the “winter blues” or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), you may want to consider investing in a light therapy box. If your time and funds allow it, take a trip to a warm, sunny destination!

·       Play some music, which has a powerful affect on mood and energy. Your favorite songs and certain beats can boost your energy, relax you at the end of a stressful day, or simply put a smile on your face.

·       Use aromatherapy to calm or energize you.  For example, lavender and ylang ylang relax most people.  Citrus and peppermint tend to have an energizing affect. Sources of scents include body lotions, air fresheners, oils, candles, and even home cleaning products.

·       Keep a clean home.  Clutter can add to feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed.

·       Connect with nature when you can.  This includes trees, animals, and yes, even the cold weather and snow.

3.   Your Family and Friends

·       Learn to communicate assertively, which means honoring your needs as well as respecting the other person.  Say “no” when it is not in your best interest to agree. Usually the other person also benefits from you not taking on too much or feeling resentful about the request.

·       Connect spiritually with significant others rather than focusing on financial or material things.  We forgot how nourishing laughter, hugs, stimulating conversation, and loving words can be.

·       Ask for help when needed. You deprive people the feeling of joy often experienced by lending a helping hand and sharing a common goal with you.  If you are experiencing more severe or chronic difficulties, seek professional help.

·       Volunteer.  Helping others gratifies our sense of self and connects us to a larger purpose.

Monika Sharma