There’s a lot to love about the holidays – traditions, decorations, music…but this season can also be a time of extra stress and pain. It’s cold outside! You may be feeling extra societal or familial pressures around this time of year and it can be hard to remember to put yourself first. Stress, whether acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) affects your hormone levels which affect your metabolism and how your body processes nutrients. Here’s 10 ideas for relaxation during this busy season:
- Eat mindfully. Think about whether you’re eating because you’re hungry or because your cousin is getting on your nerves and the house isn’t clean yet. If you’re a stress eater, starting to identify those emotions can lead to improved food choices. Research also shows that focusing on meal, chewing slowly actually increases the enjoyment of food and improves digestion. Double win!
- Aim for a healthy diet. Following My Plate guidelines – even during the holidays – can help regulate stress hormone levels.
- Take some Me time! If you’re feeling drained by the constant togetherness that the Holidays often bring, make sure to carve out some time for yourself. This could be a great chance to knock out another relaxation goal – exercise.
- Find social support! For some people, the Holidays mean too much family time but for others this can actually be a very lonely time of year. Congregate meal sites, community centers, and friends can be a source of comfort during this time.
- Get a hobby. Carving out time for an enjoyable activity or learning a new skill can help you get through tough weeks and give you something to look forward to. Reading, cooking, and movement are all great hobbies for relaxation. Hobby development can even help with growing your social support system.
- Practice movement. One of the best stress busters is gentle movement. This could mean walking, biking, hiking, dancing, yoga, tai chi, deep cleaning. If you’re moving and feeling good about it, it counts! Aim to do this daily and maybe sneak in an extra session if you find yourself getting worked up.
- Take deep breaths. Breathwork is a great way to reduce stress and the best part is that you can do it anywhere, in any situation, with minimal exertion. It’s this lazy girl’s number one go-to for immediate relaxation. There’s lots of different breathing exercises but just slow and deep inhales and exhales can work wonders.
- Sleep on it. Aim for your 7-9 hours a night to help stay calm during the day. Having trouble falling asleep? Try deep breath work.
- Get some fresh air. Time in nature can be restorative. While being outside during winter might not be your cup of tea, you can still take a moment to try and appreciate the beauty of the season.
- Express gratitude. Grateful people are known to be happier and healthier but what if you’re just not wired that way? Whether you’re feeling like a Grinch or not, writing letters of gratitude to people and expressing thanks can reduce depression and help grow that gratitude muscle.
I hope that this holiday season you can use some of these tips to find joy and relaxation in every day.
by Carolyn Alecia Negley, RD