Updated: Dec 21, 2021
Do you find the holiday season overwhelming and stressful? You may have a lot of balls to juggle, from work commitments, family, Christmas shopping, winter colds, covid, shorter days, as well as just day to day general life. How can you feel calm, relaxed, and present with loved ones and enjoy quality time?
Stress occurs when the demands are outweighing our perceived ability to cope. If we do not manage and address stress it can build and can make us unwell, harm relationships, reduce creativity and feel regret at missing out on the fun and enjoyment of life.
The effects of stress are measurable and effect every system in the body as well as the mind. Some of the symptoms of stress in the body are difficulty sleeping, tense muscles, inflammation, increased blood pressure, gastrointestinal challenges, IBS, weight change, back pain, headaches, and fatigue. Some of the psychological symptoms of stress are, it can lead to anxiety, depression, low mood, loss of interest, overwhelm, low confidence, social withdrawal, cynicism, procrastination, frustration, and worry.
Our modern-day brain was designed to run from tigers to survive, stress was short-lived, and these stress hormones would leave the body through the act of running. However, this evolutionary old part of the brain is not well suited to today’s world. Therefore, we need to find ways to release the stress and bring the body back to safety by resetting our nervous systems and using our calm, logical thinking part of the brain. Stress is inevitable and part of life, therefore it is important we have the tools to respond to stress in the best way possible.
So, what can we do to manage stress and build resilience? Firstly, stop and imagine how you would like the Holiday season to be and how you would like to feel during the holiday season.
What is key to managing stress is to know what you can and cannot control and put your energy into what you can control. We can only control our response to stress - our feelings, our perspective, and our behaviour. We cannot control the situation and other people's feelings and behaviour. For example, we cannot change covid, but we do have complete control in how we respond to covid. This can be done by managing our thoughts, our actions, and our perspective, which is how we can make the best of this given situation.
Here are some concrete ways to release stress regularly from the body so it does not build and make you sick and bring your body back to a safe place.
· Physical movement communicates to your body most efficiently that you have released stress and your body is now a safe place to be
· 20 second hug from a loved one, a biological safe cue to the bring the body back to safety
· Breathwork, very quickly resets the nervous system
· Mindfulness activities brings us back to the now, which is the only place where we can act from.
· Writing releases frustration, worry or fear from the body and allows us to make sense and give meaning to the situation
· Switch worrying to risk managing and problem solving and write a list of worries and a list of solutions to them
· Sleep and sunlight – get outside in natural light during the day, preferably in nature. Sleep is one of the main factors that affect our mood and integrate memories and experiences
· Nutrition - eating majority whole foods, such fruit, vegetables, healthy fats, protein and complex carbs
· Crying and laughing releases stress and lets go of stress
Notice the early warning signs of stress, such as tension in the body and consciously take time out to notice, accept and respond to the stress. If stress does feel consuming and overwhelming, it is worth talking with someone who can see a different perspective and can help problem solve.
If you want more help with this, I offer a free 20-minute call, where we can talk about what challenges you face and plan the best response, using evidence-based tools, so that instead of letting stress control you, you can be more in control of your life.