The holidays are right around the corner. Along with all of the fun and festivities comes stress and inevitably overindulging. The good news is that with a little pre-planning and five techniques from wellness world experts, we can all proactively combat these two “December Downers.”
Plan In Advance. “The stress of the holiday season and social events can be counteracted by planning ahead,” says Dr. Amy L. Jarchow, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist in private practice at Human Resources Associates in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “Start getting organized early, so shopping and cooking doesn’t take place at the last minute.” She also recommends planning ways you can change up your gift giving to make it easier and more beneficial to others and the environment. “If the idea of giving material possessions is stressful, make a donation to your favorite charity in the name of your friends and family and ask them to do the same for you,” Amy says. “Plan a gift exchange that is ‘green,’ encouraging participants to make gifts, [recycle or reuse one] rather than just purchasing them.
Incorporate Some Mindfulness. Simplifying our lives can assist in gaining a sense of control, which can alleviate stress. “When we have time to focus, have fewer distractions, we are able to better focus on and enjoy the present,” Amy reminds us. “It can be difficult to let go, but thinking ahead and focusing on how changing your behavior can affect your mood and thought processes can be motivating.” She also recommends planning relaxation time and making sure that when you do be mindful that you are fully in the moment. “Take time to enjoy all of the sensory stimuli during the holiday season.”
Indulge With Restraint.“When we give ourselves permission to indulge in some holiday sweets, an all-or-nothing mentality takes over and we can go completely overboard,” says Dan DeFigio celebrated nutrition expert and author of Beating Sugar Addiction For Dummies. “Gobbling down every single sugar-filled treat we can lay our hands on—usually with the promise that at the beginning of the new year we’ll start our diet, get back to the gym, or whatever other promise we make to themselves every year, is not an effective strategy.”
Dan works with his clients to create a more balanced approach to holiday eating while still encouraging them to enjoy some goodies during holiday times. “If you’re at a holiday party with a table loaded with desserts as far as the eye can see, pick three things and have two bites of each one. That way you’ll get to enjoy three desserts without overloading yourself with sugar.”
Get Plenty Of Sleep. While it may seem impossible, sleep is critical to combatting stress and the negative health effects that come with it. A suppressed immune system can be an invitation to colds and no one wants to be stuck at home during the season of fun. Carol Ebert, a nurse and experienced wellness specialist, suggests several ways to encourage sound slumber during the holiday season, including “setting a schedule and exercising daily, as these are two critical elements of a good night’s sleep.”
She also cautions not to over indulge in caffeine and nicotine as they are stimulants, and also alcohol, as all are counterintuitive to rest. She also recommends relaxing before bed, controlling your room temperature, not lying in bed awake and, whenever you can indulge, sleep until sunlight.
Make Personal Commitments. Although we often save our resolutions for the New Year, Carol knows that “believing in the beauty and simplicity of the holiday season” will encourage you to make personal commitments to yourself and others.
“I commit myself to remember those people who truly need my gifts,” she says and is often asked to coach clients through their personal stresses this season. For Carol it’s a personal gift. “I also rededicate myself to the spiritual growth of my family, initiate one act of peacemaking within my circle of family and friends and as a way of reflection and stress reduction, examine my holiday activities in light of the true spirit of the holidays.”
Kim Monaghan, PCC, RYT, CPBS is the owner of KBM Coaching & Consulting LLC, a boutique Human Resources Consulting and Career Coaching Firm serving a national clientele.