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The Wavelength

5 Effective Strategies To De-Stress This Holiday Season

'Tis season to be jolly? The holidays are meant to be joyful, but can oftentimes leave us feeling overwhelmed and overly stressed.

On top of a crammed schedule packed with parties, shopping, travel, and cooking, there is also often a big financial burden that comes with the holiday season. Needless to say, the overwhelm can pile up quickly, making your holidays more stressful than joyful.

Here are some effective ways to better manage the seasonal stress and make your holiday season more enjoyable.

1. Make a game plan and be realistic

Woman at computer making a list

Between shopping for gifts, making travel plans, hosting family members, and attending holiday parties, the holiday to-do list can get out of control. A simple way to prevent the season from becoming a stressful event is to plan ahead and set realistic expectations.

First, make a list of everything you need to accomplish before the holiday. Then, be realistic about how much you can actually get done and prioritize the things that are most important and time-sensitive. Finally, incorporate these to-dos into your current schedule without overwhelming yourself.

Pro tip: You can save yourself a lot of time and headache this upcoming holiday season by ordering gifts and groceries online, prepping meals a few days ahead, and planning trips way in advance.

2. Make room for nutritious foods

Various healthy, whole foods

Holiday food is delicious and you should certainly indulge and savor your favorite meals. However, research shows that the foods you eat are closely related to how you feel – mentally.

Ever heard of "holiday depression?" Certain foods such as refined sugars and highly processed foods are associated with an increased risk for depression, anxiety, and stress. Conversely, whole food like vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, and fish have been shown to improve mood and mental well-being.

This doesn’t mean you have to skip the holiday goodies altogether, but try to incorporate more good-for-you foods into your holiday meals by snacking on nuts, adding more plant-based meals to your holiday feast, or adding berries to your breakfast.

Mood-supportive foods to consume include:

  • healthy fats such as nuts and seeds
  • antioxidant-rich fruits such as berries
  • plant proteins such as beans
  • polyphenol-rich foods such as dark chocolate
  • gut-supportive foods such as sauerkraut and other fermented foods

These foods are not only highly nutritious, but they have been also shown to have a positive effect on symptoms associated with stress, depression, and anxiety.

3. Take breaks and carve out some "me time"

Woman sitting thoughtfully on a dock in the mist

Trying to navigate through the social aspect of the seasonal holidays can be stressful in its own right. Between visiting family members, catching up with friends, and attending work parties, all the socialization can leave you without any "me time."

To keep your mental health in check, it’s important to make time for yourself to relax, unwind, and recharge your batteries. Some effective solo stress management techniques include mindful breathing practices such as meditation or yoga, reading a good book, taking a hot bath, going for a long walk or spending time outdoors, spending time with your dog, dancing to your favorite playlist, or truly whatever makes you happy and at peace.

Whatever activity works best for you, make sure to carve out some time for it and include it in your busy holiday schedule. Even just a few minutes a day of intentional solitude can be a game-changer.

4. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Family laughing around a table

You may have heard the expression, "someday, these will be the good old days." When you look back on these holiday gatherings, you won’t remember whether the gift was well-wrapped or whether the stuffing was too dry. You will, however, remember the happy moments with your family and friends.

It’s easy to get so caught up in the details that we lose the spirit of the holidays altogether. But, at the end of the day, the season is meant to be fun and joyful. Stressing over whether your aunt will like your gift, whether the napkins match the centerpiece, or whether people will enjoy the dish you cooked, is simply not worth it.

Instead, try to focus on being present, spending time with your loved ones, and enjoying delicious foods. Don’t sweat the small stuff and make the best of the holidays so you can cherish those memories forever.

5. Keep calm and care for your gut

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Consuming a nutritious diet, limiting alcohol consumption, practicing mindfulness and other stress management techniques, and incorporating more physical activity into your day are all effective ways to manage stress in a healthy way – during the holiday season, and all year long.

However, taking the right supplements and prioritizing your gut health can also play a pivotal role. Remember, your mind and your gut are intimately connected – meaning you could be experiencing feelings of stress as a result of an anxious gut. Taking a daily Pre + Probiotic supplement to promote a robust and balanced gut microbiome is one way to bolster gut health, and may be particularly helpful during this season of overindulgence.

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Keeping the holiday blues away

The holiday season is all about gathering with loved ones, enjoying good food, and making happy memories. Planning ahead, keeping realistic expectations, making time for your mental health, and nourishing your body with the right foods and supplements are effective ways to prevent unnecessary stress and keep a clear and calm mind when going into the holidays. By following these simple strategies, you can better manage the seasonal stress and keep your mental health in check.