The holidays are a time for celebration. They bring out the best in us — gratitude, gift-giving, love, family, friendship, and more.
But as wonderful as they are, holidays can also get stressful quite quickly. While we look forward to seeing family and friends, the pressure of managing gifts, traveling, and even family dynamics can take a toll on your health. For those who have lost loved ones, the holidays can be especially trying times. Anxiety, depression, fatigue and even neck and shoulder pain are common issues during the holidays, and usually they stem from stress.
This year, put yourself on your list of holiday activities. Watch out for signs that you’re getting overwhelmed, and use these eight holiday self-care tips to stay happy and healthy all holiday season.
Watch for these physical and mental symptoms of stress
Stress and emotions can be subtle, to the point where it’s tough to realize how stressed you are until it overwhelms you. Be on the lookout for the following symptoms; they’re a good indicator that you’re more stressed than you might think.
Stress is held in your body, and your first response to stress can include any of the following muscular symptoms:
- TMJ. Tightening your jaw muscles and clenching or grinding your teeth. When you’re really stressed, you can do this to the point where you get headaches or your jaw hurts.
- Neck and shoulder pain. Your neck and shoulders often tense up when you’re stressed, which, again, can trigger headaches and make it hard to focus.
- Leg cramps. These painful cramps can flare with stress.
- Eye twitching. Stress can makes your eyes twitch as well.
- Nerve tingling. You may feel radiating numbness or tingling down your hands or legs. I often see this flare with chronic stress.
Stress also triggers anxiety and depression, with symptoms that can include any of the following:
- Pounding heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Racing thoughts
- Crying episodes
- Emotional eating
- Wanting to isolate yourself or turn down events
- Irritability or anger
- Digestive problems, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) flares
- Trouble focusing
- Decreased productivity
Do you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself?
If so, don’t worry. You can tackle your stress by making a sustainable routine for yourself – a structure and rhythm to your day that nobody can interrupt, even during the holidays. Here are eight great ways to reset your body and mind and build a sustainable structure for your life.
Don’t let exercise go during the holidays. It’s one of the best ways to manage stress and boost your mood . Schedule a workout first thing in the morning, or squeeze a little physical activity into the cracks of your day. Walk around the block, do jumping jacks, jump rope, do some pushups, or pick a few of your favorite yoga poses. Just get your body moving. Even ten minutes of exercise makes you surprisingly more resilient to stress.
Dump all that stuff out of your brain and onto a page. Take a few minutes in the morning or evening to write out all your thoughts as they come to you. Journaling helps you declutter your mind and lower stress and anxiety. It also gives you an objective look at the things that have been bothering you — you are quite literally getting your problems outside you and onto a piece of paper, where you can consider them. You may find that a lot of them are much smaller than they seemed when they were in your head. With the insignificant ones gone, you can prioritize the things you really do need to do, and address them one by one.
3. Set a sleep routine
Good sleep makes you much, much more resilient to stress and anxiety. When your mind and body are rested you can look at the world through clear eyes and you have the energy to take on the day.
Consistency is important for good sleep, so choose a time to wake up and stick to it. It might be challenging for the first few days, but once your body settles into a daily rhythm you’ll be able to wake up without much sleep resistance (that groggy, “I don’t want to get out of bed” feeling). Then you can start to build a daily routine around your wakeup time.
For deep and rejuvenating sleep, try taking Sleep Savior before bed. It has melatonin, magnesium, and magnolia bark, all of which help you fall asleep faster and sink into the deep, restorative sleep that we all need.
4. Schedule a massage
Stress causes physical tension — a tight neck and shoulders, back and hip tension, and jaw clenching are all common — and a massage can go a long way toward loosening you up so you feel like yourself again. Research shows that massages give you large and immediate stress relief . Aim for a massage every two weeks.
5. Try sound or vibration therapy
Sound is a powerful stress-relieving tool. The rhythm of healing tones or sounds can pull your body and mind into relaxation. Find a sound bath class near you, or try an app like BrainWave that has relaxation-inducing binaural beats.
6. Do yoga
Yoga is my favorite way to merge your mind and body, giving you both emotional and physical release in one go. Studies have found that yoga eases anxiety, depression, and stress . Plus, yoga stretches out tight muscles and counts as exercise.
Try to get to a yoga class one or two times a week, or pick your favorite poses to do at home daily.
7. Give yourself a warm oil scalp massage
Women who got a 15-minute scalp massage saw immediate drops in stress hormones, blood pressure, and heart rate . The nice thing about scalp massages is that you can give them to yourself, and that even a few short minutes can immediately relax you.
To make a scalp massage even more rejuvenating, gently warm your favorite oil (jojoba oil is a good option) and drop it onto your scalp, massaging into your forehead and crown. You can add a couple drops of your favorite essential oils for some aromatherapy as well (never use undiluted essential oils!).
A warm oil scalp massage does more than relieve stress — it’s also a great conditioning treatment for your hair. Do it a couple times a week to look and feel your best.
8. Get outside
It’s usually cold during the holidays, which can make it tempting to bundle up and avoid the great outdoors (or even a walk around the block). But nature is one of the best stress relievers around: stressed women who went outside daily saw a significant boost in happiness and were more resilient to stress .
You can benefit from the winter weather, too. Gentle cold exposure (a brisk winter walk or a cold shower) improves mood, to the point where cold exposure is effective in treating mild to moderate depression .
So take a walk outside every day during the holidays and get your blood flowing. Aim for 15-20 minutes a day. I bet you’ll come back glowing.
Practice a little self-care this holiday season. It’ll go a long way toward helping you get through the holidays feeling like yourself. Thanks for reading, and more holiday tips, check out these blog posts:
- Slimming Down for the Holidays
- How to Kick Holiday Sugar Cravings
- Holidays Got You Feeling Stressed? Here’s What to Do