Despite the messages of good cheer and happiness, the holidays can be a very stressful time for many women. Stress can affect all areas of our lives and can have a snowball effect on our health and wellbeing and halt any progress we’ve been making towards our goals all year-long.

Holiday Realities

Traditionally, the holiday season is a time of gratitude, giving, and love. We are inundated with advertisements of picture-perfect families sharing a holiday meal, laughing, and enjoying each others company. Unfortunately, the reality can be quite the opposite for many of us.

Holidays have become a source of stress for the majority of the population. Most women report increased stress during the holidays, due to a lack of time, money, and some would argue, the overly hyped commercialization of the season.

Obligations to family, friends and coworkers become a source of stress. Parties, cooking, cleaning, shopping, family gatherings and financial issues are all sources of stress for your clients.

The holidays, for some, have transitioned from happy to hectic; certainly not the harmonious “Normal Rockwell” image we hold in our minds eye.

Signs of Stress

Symptoms of stress are different for everyone. However, an overly stressed person can manifest the symptoms of stress in the following ways:

  • Changes in eating habits; either under – or overeating
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Tension through the body
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Falling back into bad habits such as drinking, smoking, etc
  • Low immunity
  • Digestive issues
  • Poor judgment
  • Shortened attention span
  • Issues with focus
  • Manic behavior
  • Aversion to social situations

These are just a few symptoms of someone struggling with stress. If you find yourself experiencing one or more of these symptoms, take a step back and seek some balance. It’s important during this times to remember that wellness isn’t just about eating right and maintaining physical activity. It’s about keeping everything in balance: your physical, emotional, and mental world.

Strategies To Succeed

Here are 6 stress-busting strategies that can help.

First of all, know that this is a stressful time for many women. It can be very helpful to gauge where you are with your stress level. You can ask yourself “On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest), what level of stress am I feeling right now?” Most women tend to underestimate the level of stress they are dealing with, but anything over a 5, would be worthy of attention.

Reflect on what one or two of your biggest sources of stress, and consider possible solutions. Ask yourself “What do I think would help with that?” or “That does sound very stressful, have I thought about ways that would help make it better?”

Here are a few strategies you might consider to help reduce day-to-day stress.

1. Breathe

This might seem like a no-brainer, but knowing how to breathe can keep stressful thoughts at bay. Deep breathing quells a rapid heart beat, balances high blood pressure and promotes a feeling of calmness. Practice a breathing regimen that focuses on breathing in through the nose, to the lower abdomen. Exhale slowly through the mouth. You can practice this technique anywhere, anytime.

2. Practice Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness is a wonderful way to help shake off holiday-related stress. Being mindful means practicing awareness of yourself and your surroundings. Mindfulness occurs when you take the time to know yourself. Try and identify what is causing you to feel stressed.

Think specifically. “The holidays are making me stressed,” try to dig deeper than that. Chances are that it is something more specific than “the holidays.” It might be the pressure to spend money you don’t have, or to socialize with individuals who cause you anxiety.

When you practice mindfulness, you are able to get to the root of why you feel stressed. Once the cause has been established, you are better equipped to keep stress at bay.

3. Walk It Off

Exercise is so important to staying stress-free. Exercise releases feel-good hormones that help us to stay focused, energized, and balanced. Studies have shown that a 10-minute walk is just as effective at keeping stress at bay as a 45-minute workout. Going for a walk, or taking a short yoga break, can help you to stay focused on your goals.

4. Say No

Saying no is probably one of the biggest challenges you will face during the holiday season. The endless barrage of party invitations, work obligations, volunteer opportunities and family events are enough to make anyone stressed out.

Support yourself in saying no to unnecessary obligations by identifying what is mandatory and what is recreational. Work to recognize that keeping yourself balanced and stress-free is beneficial to you and to everyone around you.

5. Be Prepared

Food can be another source of stress, especially during the holidays – parties, family gatherings, and the barrage of ‘goodies’ at the office can be a huge challenge. It can be helpful to figure out a plan to prepare in advance. Ideas include: preparing a healthy dish to bring to a party, eat a healthy meal beforehand, bring a healthy meal and snacks to work so you aren’t as tempted to overdo it.

6. Do something enjoyable

Remember that it’s perfectly okay (and important) to just take some time for yourself to do something that makes you happy – even if it’s just going for a manicure or massage. It can even be something as simple as taking an hour to enjoy reading a good book.

The holiday season is only temporary, and it is possible to get through it in a low-stress way; it just takes a little planning (and a few good ideas for how to de-stress).  I hope these techniques help you stay balanced over the holidays.

What is your favorite stress-busting technique?