7 Stress-Relieving Techniques to Survive the Holidays
Posted 11/14/2016 by UHBlog
Some people love the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Others, not so much. Regardless of your opinions about the holidays, you’re likely to have a busier schedule because of meal planning and preparing, decorating, shopping, party planning and celebrating. When added to your daily professional and personal commitments, you can quickly begin to feel overwhelmed.
“For most people, stress levels go up this time of year because they’re already getting invitations and requests for their limited time long before the holidays start,” says yoga therapist and meditation instructor Dawn Miller, MA. “There are many more commitments than you possibly have time to honor. It can cause you to lose your routine, alter your sleep patterns, change your eating habits and give up exercise.”
Miller, who teaches Stress Management and Resilience Training (S.M.A.R.T.) workshops at University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network, offers these seven simple techniques to help relieve stress during the holidays:
- Accept good enough. “Some people are perfectionists who want the perfect holiday, the perfect family gathering and the perfect meal,” she says. “They have unrealistic expectations that create a lot of stress, especially when things don’t go as expected. Yet those unexpected things are often what create the best holiday memories.”
Instead, Miller says, lower your expectations and accept your holidays and traditions as they unfold.
- Make fewer commitments. There are only so many days available during the holidays, so look at your calendar and prioritize which commitments are most important to you.
“If someone is trying to hold a holiday party in the second week of January in order to fit it all in, it's time to reassess,” Miller says. “Sometimes, you just need to say no.”
- Keep self-care routines. As much as you can, keep your routines, Miller says, especially your routines around self-care: exercise, sleep and food. For instance, she recommends using mindfulness practices to avoid falling into bad habits, such as overeating or comfort eating, which can leave you feeling bloated and irritable well into the New Year.
- Take things in stride. You know that mall parking will be crowded and lines will be longer everywhere. Instead of fretting, change your outlook, Miller says.
“It’s all about perspective,” she says. “If you have to park far away, view it as an opportunity to fit in more exercise and get some fresh air.”
In fact, when you go with the flow, you’re likely to be happier overall.
“One study that focused on the way people view perceived hassles and burdens found that those who see things negatively tend to be 25 percent less satisfied with their lives than people who take things in stride,” she says.
- Practice simple exercises. If you want to let go of stress and anxiety, Miller recommends deep breathing exercises while you stand in line, which can help you relax, lower your blood pressure and increase your sense of well-being.
Similarly, some simple stretches done discreetly can help you feel better, no matter where you are. Two exercises to try are:
- Lateral stretches, where you sweep one arm out and up, while lifting tall and leaning in the opposite direction. Your body will form a crescent moon shape. Breathe deeply, then return upright and repeat on the opposite side.
- Rolling your shoulders – both forward and backward – will help relieve tightness and strain and get your circulation flowing.
- Limit your time with people who are negative. Even though most people view the holidays as a joyful time, some group situations can be hard. In those cases, Miller advises, limit your exposure as much as possible.
- Enroll in a S.M.A.R.T. class in the New Year. Before you know it, November and December will be here again. The S.M.A.R.T. workshop, developed by UH Connor Integrative Health Network can help you learn ways to develop your stress resilience and improve your ability to react positively to stress, so that you’re ready for whatever comes in future holidays.
To learn more about ways to help you manage stress, visit UH Connor Integrative Health Network website or call 216-285-4070.
Dawn Miller, MA is a certified yoga therapist, registered Viniyoga yoga teacher, Stress Management and Resilience Training (S.M.A.R.T.™) instructor and meditation instructor at UH Connor Integrative Health Network. You can request an appointment with Miller or any other health care provider online.