“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”
The holidays are notorious for adding stress to the already heavy load for adults struggling to host gatherings, juggle work and family obligations, dodging the flu, not to mention being a triggering time for those impacted by loss and/or trauma. So I conjured up a list of tips to help folks navigate this window of time, which will be over with in a few short weeks, mind you. So strap on your seat belt, hop in your vehicle, and carry on. Sure and steady, here we go!
Tip 1: Get sleep. Studies show human beings need at least five consecutive hours of restorative sleep to generate a full sleep cycle and thus, keep serotonin (the neurotransmitter that regulates mood) at a decent level (Kendall-Tackett, 2017). No sleep and you are seriously on your way to being Grinch Personified. If you are having difficulty for a medical reason (depression, anxiety, trauma, new baby, etc)…please contact your general practitioner for a consultation regarding potential supplements or sleep aids, if needed.
Tip 2: Keep healthy snacks at the ready. Believe me, I know how hard it is to bypass the delicious gingerbread men or latkes at the employee lounge table. And give yourself permission to indulge a little bit with a nibble here or there. If you are worried about over-indulging, fill up with high quality proteins (almonds, walnuts, Greek yogurt) and chopped veggies/fruits before going to a holiday party.
Tip 3: Be okay with saying “no.” In other words, don’t over-extend, or you will set your self up for burn-out and a lowered immune system, rendering yourself susceptible to the flu and other nasty seasonal germs. For those with family relations where there is toxic communication, the individual may want to consider Limited Contact or No Contact (consult with a trauma-informed therapist if needed).
Tip 4: Be prepared for prior losses/traumas to surface: Most people have experienced loss and/or trauma in their lifetime. The holidays can be a great distraction from the heartache of such emotional pain, or conversely, the holidays can trigger those losses to resurface. If the latter is the case for you, see a trauma-informed therapist, attend a bereavement support group, surround yourself with authentic friendships and caring family.
Tip 5: Exercise. Better yet, do it in nature. Studies show the benefit of hiking particularly. We all know that exercise is good for our physical health, and many of us notice we feel better emotionally when we are exercising due to the lovely endorphins and serotonin-boost that circulate in our systems as a result. Physical release of any held tension is fabulous for brain health (van der Kolk, 2015).
Tip 6: Meditate. Studies back up the psychological benefit of clearing out mind clutter and also engaging in practices such as yoga which harness the breath and bring mindfulness to the front and center (van der Kolk, 2015).
Tip 7: Keep a budget. Banish guilt. Think of handmade gift items, experiences, charity donations, etc. as options for gifts. Be happy when you don’t have a horrid credit card bill come January.
Tip 8: Volunteer. Serve a meal in a homeless shelter. Donate canned goods or used items to a local charity. Ask your child(ren)’s teachers what they need for their classrooms and provide some school supplies.
Tip 9: Slow Down. Be intentional and mindful. Ask yourself: Is what I am doing healthy, beneficial to myself or to someone I love, within my budget, not taxing my reserves in any way? You have choice. Think through whatever decision is before you, whether it is purchasing the latest hot gadget, imbibing that cup of rum-filled egg-nog, or attending the third holiday party in one week. You have choice.
Tip 10: Enjoy. Take in some holiday lights, savor a cup of hot cocoa by the fire with loved ones, engage in the spirit of Danish hyggae (close connected-ness with loved ones often surrounding shared food and fireplace), take time to savor the scenes and senses that accompany this time of year. Give yourself permission to enjoy. You deserve it.
Retrieved from (2017) Kendall-Tackett, Kathleen: uppitysciencechick.com
van der Kolk, Bessel (2015). The body keeps the score, Penguin Books.
(A version of this post first appeared in the author’s blog, From Andrea’s Couch)