The holiday season can bring a lot of unwanted stress into your life. In addition to sapping your energy and making you feel irritable, prolonged stress can also lead to some pretty serious health consequences. It has even been linked to conditions like diabetes and chronic pain. Because of how negatively it can affect you, it is advisable to take steps to reduce stress levels. If you don’t know where to start, these five strategies have all been shown to reduce stress and help you restore balance in your life.
1. Take Time Out for Yourself
There is something therapeutic and energizing about taking time out for yourself. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you consistently commit time to something you enjoy. So, go ahead and curl up with a good book, soak in a mineral bath or enjoy a favorite hobby, and do it on a regular basis. You can even add it to your schedule if that’s what it takes.
For a more pampered experience, schedule a day at the spa for a massage, facial or manicure and pedicure. Invest in professional-quality products like those from City Beauty to maintain a luxurious experience in your everyday skincare routine. Be careful to keep your splurge within your budget. Overspending will only result in more stress — the exact opposite of what you want to achieve.
2. Get Up and Move
Getting the recommended amount of exercise each week isn’t just good for your physical wellbeing. It turns out, there are significant psychological benefits as well. Exercise reduces stress in several ways. It initiates the production of endorphins, which results in a so-called “runner’s high.” It also mitigates the fight or flight response by controlling cortisol levels in the body. Many people also draw their attention to the task they are working on — whether that is racquetball, swimming or running a set distance — which can help distract you from stressful situations.
If you can exercise outside you’ll see even more benefits. Nature has an amazing ability to refresh, replenish and heal, which makes spending time in it an excellent way to conquer stress. In fact, this recent study suggests that spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature can improve your overall physical and emotional wellbeing regardless of whether physical activity was included.
3. Make Healthy Food Choices
What you eat affects how you feel, both physically and emotionally, which is why making healthy food choices can have a huge impact on how your body responds to stressors. Start by cutting back on highly processed foods. If it comes pre-packaged, it probably shouldn’t be non your grocery list. A simple way to achieve this is by developing a menu for the week, making a grocery list based on it and then shopping the perimeter of the store. That is where most of the freshest, whole foods are located. It might be difficult at first, but once you get in the habit it gets easier.
4. Give Mindful Meditation a Try
If mindful meditation conjures up images of mystical chanting and incense, it’s probably time to reevaluate your perceptions of the practice. Modern mindfulness is more about awareness and acceptance — of yourself, your situation and your surroundings. It also happens to be an excellent way to reduce stress levels. So, how do you practice mindfulness? You can try incorporating informal mindfulness practices into your holiday planning, or carve out some time for one of these more structured activities:
- Use a guided meditation
- Practice a breath meditation
- Add movement with a Tai Chi or yoga flow sequence
5. Establish a Nighttime Routine
Getting the right amount of sleep will make a big difference in how you respond to stress. Establish a nighttime routine that promotes restorative sleep, and stick with it even after the holidays are long gone. You’ll be surprised at what a difference a good night of sleep can make in how you feel.
You can’t avoid stress entirely, but you can control how it affects you. Engaging in physical activity, focusing on self-care and eating right will help you lower stress levels throughout the holidays and beyond.