The holiday season is the time of year where stress just comes with it. There’s a lot of planning and tons of decision-making that needs to be done with all of the parties, celebrating, family time, gifts…there’s just more on our plates and it can really take a toll on our mind and our body.
This is such an important topic because stress is likely negatively impacting your health in more ways than you are aware of, and is creeping into your life in more ways than you realize too!
You may feel there’s nothing you can do about the added stress – there will never be more hours in the day, your holiday responsibilities will likely always be demanding, but the great news is you actually have more control over it than you might think.
Why should we care so much about stress?
When we are experiencing stress, it drives our body into a “stressed state,” stimulating our sympathetic nervous system which drives our physiology in the opposite direction of where we likely want it to go.
It’s common to think of food being a big culprit for holiday weight gain, but stress can not only be a culprit itself but can also trigger behaviors that lead to weight gain as well.
This stressed state can cause people to experience things like stomach pains, bloating, emotionally driven overeating or binge eating, low energy, poor sleep, and a weak immune system.
It also causes the body to produce more insulin and cortisol which can do things like increase cravings for sugary, salty, or carby foods and slow metabolism and trigger fat storage especially around the midsection leading to weight gain or weight loss resistance.
Where are sneaky stressors coming from?
When it comes to managing stress to reduce the negative impacts on the body, an important first step to get clear on ALL the places that are making you feel stress/anxiety.
There are the obvious ones you can probably rattle off quickly, but there’s also not-so-obvious what I call sneaky self imposed stressors that create just a big of an impact.
Self imposed stressors are things like negative self-talk, feeling guilty/blaming/shaming ourselves, putting pressure on ourselves to be perfect, eating fast or multitasking when you’re eating, skipping meals or not getting enough key nutrients, and consuming excessive caffeine/alcohol/sugar.
The body reacts the same to those self imposed stressors as it does the bigger ones that might be more out of your control.
It reacts the same way if you’re pulling your hair out thinking about the perfect gift for your inlaws as if your inner critic voice is telling you you’ll never get things done on time as if you drink 6 cups of coffee in a day.
Once you’re clear of ALL of the stressors in your life, focus on what you have the power to control or influence, get creative with it, don’t be afraid to ask for help or say no.
4 unique ways to manage holiday stress:
If you can view stressful situations as challenges you can control and master, rather than as threats, it’ll help lower the stress response. Like if you think “I have all these things to do I’ll never get them done” of course you feel stressed. But if you shift your thought to “I have all these things to do but I know I’ll get them all done” it’s kind of an instant exhale.
You’ve heard the saying: “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” It’s easy to forget to or deprioritize taking care our ourselves. Self care isn’t selfish, it’s about self preservation so we’ll be charged enough to do the things we need to do.
See where you can fit in small things that fill your cup like talking a 15 minute walk at lunch listening to calming music or taking 2 minutes to do a deep breathing exercise before running into a crowded store or using lavender essential oil before bed to help get a more restful sleep.
If you find yourself inflicting self-imposed stressors like negative self talk, feeling guilty or worrying, or feeling the pressure to be perfect > acknowledge the emotion or the mental chatter, link it to the trigger or what caused it, and flip your response from self judgment to self compassion or empathy with a deep breath. You can even say “I choose to let this go”
Certain foods help the body cope with stress by giving it key vitamins and nutrients that produce calming hormones to relax the body. Focus on adding to your plate this season foods like: leafy green veggies, turkey, fermented foods, dark chocolate, bananas, sweet potatoes, chamomile tea, brazil nuts, avocado. Also try to include protein/fat/carbs/and veggies at as many meals as you can to help balance your blood sugar and stabilize your hormones!
Want even more tips to have happy & healthy holidays? Click here for an audio recording with my top 15 tips! Then let me know which you’re most looking forward to trying.