The holiday season should be a highlight of each year with happy times spent with friends and family. Unfortunately, it can also be a time of stress and anxiety for many people. With shorter days, bad weather, the hustle-and-bustle of shopping, and pressure to meet goals and expectations, it can be a challenge to stay positive and enjoy ourselves. Here are some ideas for keeping the holidays healthy and happy.
Treat yourself Although the holidays are a time to think of others, we need to be kind and be mindful of ourselves, too. More important to a little side-gift for ourselves, we should also be sure to get plenty of rest, avoid skipping meals and make healthy food choices. We also need to be careful about exposure to the cold, becoming too run down, and even things like walking on snow and ice! Be sure to include down-time in your schedule. Simple things like having a nice hot cocoa and taking some time to read will also help a lot.
Happy Environment One way to reduce stress and anxiety is to create a pleasant environment for ourselves. This may seem impossible at first, but there are some simple things that we probably do have control over. For example, choosing music that is positive and uplifting will have a very different impact on us than music that brings us down. The same can be said for any other media like movies, books, games, etc. Keeping your living space clean, well lit, warm and smelling nice can also help.
Stay Positive Keeping a positive and optimistic outlook on things is a great way to insure a happy and healthy holiday season. Try to see the good in any situation and avoid ‘crashing’ emotionally about things that probably aren’t super important. Avoid feeling like the victim or that the world is against you. Let stuff go. Tolerate people and situations. Be happy. Count your blessings. Just being able to celebrate another holiday season is a gift.
Surround yourself with friends The holidays are a great time to be with family and friends. But, we should remember the purpose of this is to relax and enjoy ourselves while doing that. It is important to maximize time with the people who make you happy and are willing to at least tolerate your own views and choices. Conversely, time with individuals who tend to create stress and anxiety in our lives should be minimized. Sometimes we may need to edit our ‘friends list’ for the sake of our quality of life.
Limit portions The holidays are an amazing time for good food and drink, but limiting our intake can go a long way towards avoiding problems with overindulgence. These can include anything from upset stomach, to excessive weight gain, to added stress on our bodies. Rather than have a mindset of ’pigging out’ now and starting a diet in the new year it is much smarter to simply limit the amount of each thing we eat or drink. Remember to strike a balance between enjoying these things and overdoing it.
Limit Spending Some of the stress from the holiday season can come from spending beyond our means. Set a reasonable budget for holiday spending and stick to it. Being smart about spending for the holidays will not only reduce stress during the season, but also make the start of a new year happier once the bills come.
Exercise The holiday season can be a challenging time to maintain or start a fitness program, but having a routine of exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress and stay energized. Studies show that regular exercise provides body and brain chemistry that reduces stress and actually boost our energy level. It also improves ‘cognitive function’ or helps us think more clearly. Exercise makes us more fit, helps us be sleep better, and makes it easier to regulate our food intake. Of course, martial arts training is an amazing way to exercise the mind, body and spirit and we would recommend to continue or start training at ZenQuest.
Meditate Many people scoff at the idea of meditation, but this doesn't have to mean some weird and mystical activity. In many cases the ’M’ word simply means taking some time to practice being relaxed and focused. There are many different methods of meditation and each person can usually find one that helps them. Just a few minutes a couple of times each week can go a long way to staying calm and thinking more clearly during stressful times. Just giving ourselves time in our schedule to relax for a bit can be a great form of meditation. One healthy trick is to think of every challenging situation as ’zen’ training or an opportunity to practice staying calm. Every class at ZenQuest includes a form of mental exercise or meditation that can help.
Play with your Pets Many of us have pets at home that love to play and get attention from their owners. Studies show that taking time to hang out and play with them is great for both them and us. We can easily fall into a pattern of neglecting our pets when we’re busy, but engaging with them actually elevates our mood and reduces stress. Improving the quality of their life will also improve yours.
Cut back on technology Today’s world has us spending a huge portion of our time on our gadgets, computers and TVs. Too much time spent on technology can also be a source of stress for us and we need to be smart about using our ‘smart phones’ and the like. Set intelligent limits for using technology and give yourself frequent breaks. Avoid neglecting meals, sleep and personal care. Try to match your technology usage with an equal time doing other activities. Do some activities with the kids to break up their tech time, too.
Following these tips and staying mindful about our mental and physical condition during the holidays should help us stay happy and healthy during this wonderful time of year. Set the example for others and remember to reach out to those who may have a more difficult time. If we all have the attitude of spreading joy to others and taking a leadership role during the holidays...and all year round, the world will be a better place.
Happy holidays everyone!