Tis the Season: 10 Tips to Beat Stress and Overwhelm this Holiday Season!

We were lucky to have Jenna Walenga, a wellness coach, yoga and meditation teacher join us yesterday for a Live | Learn session on addressing the major sources of holiday stress, from the massive to-do lists to the family dinner table, and help you prepare to face them all with ease.

Here are 10 tips to beat stress during the holidays to recap her event: 

Let’s admit it, the holiday season has grown longer and longer thanks to some pressure from retail stores and overzealous radio DJs and now, whether we like it or not, the day after Halloween it has become completely acceptable for “Jingle Bells” to be playing overhead when we get in the elevator. But despite what Bing Crosby might wish for us, not everyone spends the next two months “merry and bright.” 

In fact, the end of the year inevitably brings stress-inducing situations our way, from crowded stores and added financial pressures to family gatherings and more parties than one liver can survive. Add to it all pressures from work or our own end of the year deadlines, and you’ve got a recipe for emotional disaster.

But, you don’t have to resign yourself to another season of running ragged. This year, set an intention for something different. As a wellness coach and yogi, I’ve learned this begins with a simple question.

What do you really want? 

No, I’m not talking about a list for Santa, but instead I’m asking you to get clear about how you want to feel this year. When you know what you want, you can let that desire guide your actions.  

Last year left you sick, sluggish and rundown.

This year you want to feel ENERGIZED, STRONG and HEALTHY.

Stay Nourished

Who hasn’t said, “Screw it, it’s the holidays” at some point, but an increase in your sugar and carbohydrate intake (hello cookies!) is a killer to your system, wreaking havoc on your energy, your digestion and your immunity, so indulge wisely. Make it count. 

The store bought butter cookies? Pass. Grandma’s homemade sweet potato pie on Thanksgiving? Yes, please. Don’t overthink every decision, but set out to ENJOY what you eat, instead of just going hog wild!

Keep Moving

When our schedules get messy, due to deadlines or traveling, exercise often takes a back seat. But exercise is crucial for not only avoiding that dreaded holiday weight gain, but boosting your endorphins. A few feel good brain chemicals go a long way in the holiday survival game. Aim to make it a priority to move every day. Maybe it’s a walk around the block with your sister or a yoga class on your lunch break, but get moving!

Drink Wisely

We all know the cycle, you want to relax so you have a glass of wine, maybe 2 or 3. The next day you aren’t feeling so hot but you have plans for dinner with old friends so it’s time for some hair of the dog. With social gatherings at a high, mini benders can accidentally creep into your life. Plan ahead to avoid the hangovers and regrets. 

One trick is to find OTHER drinks to have in hand to avoid mindlessly overindulging. Try hot tea when hanging at home with the family, Kava to take the edge off your nerves, or Kombucha when you need something bright (bonus: it’ll help keep your digestive system in shape).

Last year left you overwhelmed and anxious.

This year you wish for PEACE, CALM and EASE.

Presence, not Presents 

When everything seems crazy, step back and slow down. Sit still and notice the little things. Use all your senses to experience where you are: watch snow falling outside, the smell of the Christmas tree, the warmth of the tea cup in your hand, the sound of your uncle lightly snoring on the couch next to you. Fully be where you are.

Take a breath

For a quick calming exercise whenever you need it, simply slow down your breath. Count mentally the length of your inhale and exhale and let them become long and easy. Take at least 10 long, slow breaths by yourself before facing a stressful situation like a project at work or a conversation with your drunk cousin. For a bonus, start every day by setting a timer for five minutes, closing your eyes and focusing on your breath.

Don’t give gifts

If the idea of finding the perfect gift for everyone leaves you with a sense of dread or overwhelm, just DON’T DO IT. If it’s important that everyone get something than make it easy and get them all the same thing. A massage gift certificate, a donation to a charity in their name, a box of Theo Chocolates, there are certain things everyone can appreciate and it doesn’t have to be expensive. This might sound crazy at first, but let’s be honest, it really is the thought that counts.

Last year you were frustrated with your family or lonely.

This year you want to feel LOVE and JOY. 

Say No

It’s okay to put yourself first sometimes. Don’t go to any parties or gatherings out of obligation. Only go to the ones you will enjoy and say “no” to the rest. You might be missed, but most likely, no one will be offended or angry. Stay home and watch The Santa Clause on Netflix if that is what you really want to do.

Bring a book

Or your knitting needles, etc. Even the most extroverted of us need SOME TIME to ourselves. Deal with family hustle and bustle by having a solo activity with you that gives you an excuse to sit quietly by yourself, head to bed early and just ignore everyone completely.

Practice Joy

Find a way to turn your thoughts back to love and joy. The more you practice it, the easier it becomes to turn toward love, even when it feels hard. You can simply repeat a mantra to yourself such as “My family wants the best for me” or “I offer love to all people.” Or for a more formal practice, Yoga Nidra is a mediation which helps guide you to feelings of ease and joy. Join us at the Riveter on Thursdays in November to get in the groove.

And for those moments when despite all your best efforts, you feel like you’ve lost the battle: you feel ungrateful, tired, overwhelmed, or offended by your in-laws again, pull a Santa.

Make A List

A Gratitude List. It’s so easy to forget all the wonderful things in our lives, but the holiday season is meant to be a time of connection, love and appreciation for what we have. When you find yourself lost in the little stuff, come back to the reason for the season. Make a big, long list of all that you are grateful for in your life and fill yourself with appreciation for what you have.

All of these habits are most effective when practiced early and often, so they can be used when times are more difficult. Hopefully you can integrate a few of these tips into your life and perhaps let this truly be “the most wonderful time of the year.”