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Are you feeling it? The pressures and stress of the holiday season, I mean.

You know what I’m talking about. Yes, it’s an amazing and magical time of year, but it also brings a ton of expectations. There’s schedule pressure, gift-giving pressure, social pressure, family pressure, and even the pressure to make it through all this with a smile.

If you live in a colder/darker climate, add this: There’s also less sunshine, which can put a real damper on your mood.

Plus, some of us feel pressure to make the holidays absolutely perfect for our loved ones, and to recapture the magic we remember from our childhood. Wow. That’s a lot, right?

A few years ago, Healthline surveyed people about their feelings during the holidays:

  • 62% said they felt “very or somewhat” stressed during their holidays.
  • Only 10% reported no stress!

Researchers found that people reported they were more likely to “behave in sedentary ways like watching TV, sleeping, eating, and drinking to manage their stress. Many individuals engage in comfort eating and other unhealthy behaviors to cope with their stress levels.”

Don’t let this be you!

Stress-proof the holidays with exercise

stress and exercise

One of the simplest and most reliable ways to combat stress and depression is exercise.

Exercise can help relieve symptoms of depression in several ways. Exercise is often coined a “natural antidepressant” because of its ability to increase the production of certain brain chemicals.
For example, regular exercise can positively impact serotonin levels in your brain. Raising your levels of serotonin boosts your mood and overall sense of well-being. It can also help improve your appetite and sleep cycles.

Beginning an exercise routine can change your mental outlook, but this isn’t the only thing it changes. Exercise also causes physical changes to your body. Activity can help you lose excess weight, build muscle tone, and improve your overall physical appearance. Improving your self-image helps you feel stronger and more confident, and raises your self-esteem.

By the way, you don’t have to do an intense workout in the gym. Just turn on some music and move! A solo dance party will turn cleaning up the kitchen (or cooking, or wrapping gifts, or cleaning the guest room) into less of a chore.

Other ways to de-stress the holidays

Here are some better ideas to help turn your mood around – try not take them as added pressure, but as ways to blow off some steam (or avoid the steam altogether)!

  • Get Outside. Even when it’s cold, take a quick walk outside and enjoy nature – or your neighbor’s decorations. There’s nothing like a change of scenery and fresh air to shift your perspective.
  • Stay away from social media. If there ever was a time to cut back on your scrolling time, it’s now! When you’re feeling stressed, it’s easy to compare your situation with that of others. Remember: social media is where people generally show their “perfect” (or even made-up) life, not their REAL life. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” noted Teddy Roosevelt.
  • Deliver random acts of kindness. One of my favorite things to do when I go to the post office or grocery store is to give a total stranger a sincere compliment.
  • Distract yourself! Give your brain something to do besides worry. Watch a comedy, work out, play a game, or even tackle an unrelated household chore (Hello organized closet!).
  • Breathe. Do two minutes of this mindful breathing exercise: Just sit back and focus on your breath. Feel your belly and chest rise as you breathe in, and sink as you breathe out. If you mind wanders away from the focus on your breathing (and it probably will), just bring your attention back to the simple act feeling the inhale and the exhale. This can be an amazing “reset” for your mood because mindful breathing helps relieve stress and anxiety.

An important note: there’s a difference between feeling stressed out and feeling true anxiety and depression. If you’re feeling truly distressed, be sure to check in with your therapist. There’s no need to handle all of that by yourself.

Exercise for stress relief

If you’d like some help (and some motivation) with exercise for stress relief, contact Basics and Beyond to discuss personal training and nutrition counseling options.

Stress eating

holiday stress eating

More trouble with the holiday season — Food will be everywhere. And tons of it.

During Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa, goodies are everywhere.

Things feel out of control!

But there are plenty of things you CAN control .

You can control how you respond to difficult and stressful circumstances.

You can’t always control what happens to you. But you CAN control WHAT YOU DO when crazy things happen.

“Busy” doesn’t have to mean “out of control.”

Read that sentence again, please.

You are the boss of you. It’s easy to forget this, believe me, I know.

But overwhelm does not have to mean poor eating choices.

You are 100% in control of your actions and your attitude EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY.

Take a deep breath and let that soak in for a second. Step into your power! (Feels good, doesn’t it?)

Taking one successful step that demonstrates your power and control will help.

This step doesn’t need to be big. Any small action can create some positive momentum and a feeling of personal power.

  • Pick an apple instead of a cookie.
  • Say ‘No’ to something that you don’t really want to do.
  • Tell someone that you love and appreciate them.
  • Plan what you’re going to have for dinner right now (takes 20 seconds).
  • Apologize to someone you’ve hurt.
  • Get something small off your plate — Take your overwhelming To Do list, and dedicate the next 60 seconds to knocking out ONE thing.
  • Put your phone down and look out the window for 30 seconds.

Be PURPOSEFUL instead of REACTIVE. When you do that, “busy’ is just busy, not stressful.