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December 15, 2023 • read
Top tips to enjoying the holiday season
The holidays, often dubbed the most wonderful time of the year, can come with its fair share of stress. Whether you’re navigating family dinners, travelling with kids, managing a tight budget, or feeling the pressure to handle everything, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. To help you feel great during this festive season, here are practical ways to manage holiday stress.
The power of positivity
No matter how well we plan, many factors are beyond our control during the holidays, such as unexpected road closures due to winter storms or the entire family getting sick with the flu. To stay upbeat and alleviate natural stressors like unexpected changes in the itinerary, make alternate plans and have a positive mindset. As explained by The Psychology Foundation of Canada, pessimism can interfere with the ability to solve stress-related problems. “Replacing negative thinking patterns with more flexible and realistic thinking can make it easier to cope with stress.”
Start with these three simple steps, recommended by The College of Health Care Professions:
- Engage in positive self-talk
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Spend time with positive people
Greens are great
Simple dietary swaps can have a big impact on stress levels. Incorporating leafy greens like spinach, kale, or Swiss chard into your diet can decrease stress. This is because stress elevates cortisol levels, bringing along symptoms like headaches and fatigue. Magnesium, found abundantly in leafy greens, is crucial in reducing cortisol. Adding these nutrient-rich greens to your holiday meal plan can also improve your mood.
Feeling the pressure to make nourishing food choices during holiday festivities? Don’t let stress dictate what you put on your plate. Experts suggest avoiding coming to a party on an empty stomach. Instead, eat a balanced snack such as an apple with peanut butter or sliced vegetables with hummus. Opting for a nutrient-rich snack starts you off on the right foot and makes you more likely to choose healthier food choices throughout the party.
Enjoying a few glasses of wine at dinner or savouring some extra eggnog by the fire is lovely this time of year. Yet in times of stress, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health recommends being mindful of overindulging. Holiday parties are also a great time to test out different non-alcoholic beers and zero-proof cocktails, which have become more popular in recent years. Health Canada provides practical guidance for special celebrations if you decide to enjoy a few alcoholic beverages. The ideal amount to reduce any health risks is two drinks a week for women and men.
Spend time in the great outdoors
Not a cold-weather enthusiast? Don’t worry. A 2019 study found that spending just 20 minutes in nature can significantly reduce stress levels. Embrace the season by bundling up, exploring a nearby nature trail, or building snow forts in the backyard with your kids. Spending time in the morning sunlight or going for a quick walk is a proven way to feel more relaxed throughout the day and can even improve sleep quality at night.
Make sure you get sufficient sleep amidst the holiday hustle. According to the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults, people ages 18 to 64 should regularly target seven to nine hours of quality sleep, and those 65 and older should sleep seven to eight hours. Consistency matters, even during the holidays, so maintain regular sleep and wake times during your time off. Increase the quality of rest by practicing good sleep hygiene, like avoiding caffeine in the afternoon or taking a warm shower before bed.
Turn to meditation
Are you looking to destress with meditation but not sure where to begin? Anxiety Canada suggests starting with a body scan meditation.
- Find a comfy spot, sit or lie down, and either close your eyes or lower your gaze. Start with a few deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Let your shoulders relax into your body.
- Begin the scan from the top of your head, paying attention to sensations without judgment—move down through your head, shoulders, chest, and mid-body.
- Progress downward, exploring each body part, ending with your feet. Take the time to consider how you’re feeling physically and emotionally.
- Wrap up by gently returning your focus to your surroundings, taking a slow, deep breath, and opening your eyes.
This practice helps you recognize and understand your emotions, identifying areas where you might be holding stress in your body. Give it a try next time you’re feeling stressed.
If you’re looking for quick stress relief, pay attention to how you’re breathing. Research shows breathwork boosts energy and alertness while reducing stress-related emotions like anxiety, depression and anger. There are many free meditation guides online that can help you find the approach that’s right for you and put you on the path to a regular practice.
Investing time and energy in meaningful initiatives has tangible benefits for both your physical and mental well-being. Studies show that volunteering and participating in acts of kindness actually reduces a person’s stress levels. Giving back is truly a win-win.
Seek out support for the holiday season
Navigating end-of-year stress is smoother with the support of friends, family and health professionals that care. Maple can provide assistance by connecting you with a Canadian-licensed doctor, including licensed online therapists, to help you through challenges like depression, self-esteem, anxiety, or any other concerns. Take a positive step toward your well-being by connecting with us. We’re ready to support you through the holiday season and beyond.