The holidays can stir up a lot of emotion – some good, some bad, others ugly. On top of that, your regular routine and to-do list get side lined thanks to gift shopping, decorating, baking, cooking, the works. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the festive season just as much as the next person, but what I find is that the daily practices that usually keep me grounded, balanced and in control of my stress levels, like self care and yoga, slip away and get replaced by things like rushing, feeling overwhelmed, bad nutritional choices, lack of exercise, later nights, more alcohol… and therefore more anxiety.
What’s more, during this season our focus tends to be on others constantly, and oftentimes ends up being very materially-focused. This simple but very real truth is what in fact contributes to us feeling so unsettled and riled up during the holidays – or what’s popularly-known as ‘holiday stress’.
The secret to getting through a demanding time of year for many of us is upholding a strong emotional and mental health foundation in order to avoid holiday stress. Here are simple everyday life hacks that can help you stay relaxed and enjoy all aspects of the season.
Coping skills for the holidays
1. Reset by writing for 5 minutes every night
One of the most grounding activities you can do during the holidays is to write in a gratitude journal. It’s such a simple but effective tool to help you reset and feel on top of everything. It really only takes around 5 minutes so you can think of it like taking back a piece of your self-care routine, and even do it when laying in bed. I either write a simple list of what I am grateful for, or I think of an event that went well during my day, why it went well, and why I am grateful to myself for orchestrating it in a positive way.
2. Check in with your inner child
Remind yourself what you used to enjoy about the holidays that doesn’t come with a side of stress and anxiety. When we were little, this season was filled with joy, magic and anticipation. So look deeper into your heart and ask yourself what you love about this time of year – for example, if it’s ice skating, take yourself ice skating! Find what it is your inner child used to love doing or maybe has always wanted to do, forget about everything and everyone else for even as little as an hour, and do your thing!
3. Feel your way down memory lane
The loss of loved ones, financial burdens, family drama, work deadlines and stresses – more reason it can be very difficult during times of joy and celebration because we cling to what once was. But good memories needn’t be replaced, swallowed down and ignored – rather, one simple activity you can do anytime, anywhere to help you cope with holiday stress and negative emotions is to go for a walk by yourself down memory lane.
What’s even better is taking a literal walk by yourself, preferably in nature, as you mentally graze through past festive memories. It gives you the opportunity to release – cry, feel, laugh, and acknowledge whatever it is that comes up. Give yourself private space to feel, then come back to the present and try doing that one thing that your inner child loved so much to remind yourself that there’s goodness still around you.
4. Bring back the joy by connecting with loved ones
Many people look at the holiday season as a chance to catch up on sleep and isolate themselves for a few days. However it’s important to make sure you take the time to connect with others – no matter how introverted you may be, spending time with a loved one can without a doubt lift your spirits. It can be as simple as grabbing a cup of tea or going for a walk. It’s a simple yet oh so powerful way to manage your negative emotions and reintroduce a little self-care practice into your holiday routine.
5. Develop a daily compassion trick for yourself
Compassion is one of those ‘must-have’ emotions that allows you to recognise and be satisfied with the good as well as the bad – you will feel stressed, you will feel sad, but you will also feel joy.
Developing compassion for yourself can be difficult, but there are small tasks you can do every day that can help to develop your inner strength and confidence naturally. For example, I find I can foster more compassion for myself throughout the rest of the day when I stick to a particular exercise. This doesn’t have to be a physical fitness activity (*no full-on HIIT classes here), it can really just be a couple of minutes of stretching or meditating.
Lately, my favourite exercise has been to stand in front of a mirror in ‘superhero pose’ with my hands on my hips and chest lifted high and repeat the mantra, “Everything happens for me, not to me.”
This time of year can be challenging in so many ways, all of which are deeply personal and specific to each one of us. However with gentle reminders and daily habits like these, you can hopefully avoid holiday stress, regain the peace and joy you once felt during the season and learn how to manage your anxieties long term.