Is it the season to be merry? Yes, of course it is. But with the holidays just around the corner, so too does anxiety, stress, and angst lie in wait for many of us.
While the happy holidays are meant to be, well, happy, they often come with a sea of to-do lists that overwhelm us to the point of exhaustion, causing us to act and do things in a way that may cause some regret a little down the line.
Caving into bad habits and knee jerk reactions are common- so don’t beat yourself up about it. But if you can recognize that the holidays can cause you to stress, surely you can realize too that there are small ways you can give yourself a little extra help.
Why do the Holidays Seem Stressful?
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, for some. But for others, the holidays can also be a time of heightened emotions and hurtful reminders. Whether it’s loneliness, a dwindling savings account, the cold weather, or frustration from the pandemic this year, there are sure to be some days where you will need to get by with a little help.
According to the APA (the American Psychological Association), approximately 50% of all women in the United States are exposed to high stress and tension during the holiday season. Further survey results indicate that most turn to comfort eating, alcohol, or both, as a way to process the stress.
But leaning on coping mechanisms such as these can be even more detrimental to both emotional, mental, and physical health.
If you want to get through the holiday season without having to do damage control once the dust settles, then it is imperative that effective techniques and tips are used. Relaxation techniques such as breathwork and meditation are excellent ways quite literally to blow off steam.
Other useful techniques can be a simple sweat session in the morning or evening to release pent up frustration in a healthy way. It is all too easy to neglect your own needs during the holiday season, and in doing so, exacerbate any existing tension and stress.
When you feel heightened stress levels and the to-do list only seems to grow instead of shrink, it is the perfect time to lean on positive and encouraging techniques to reduce stress.
Stress can trigger unhealthy coping mechanisms such as binging your way through a pizza or tub of ice cream. You may begin to feel too overwhelmed to stick to your daily exercise routine or meditation- but we are here to tell you that this is precisely the time that you need to take care of yourself the most.
Here are some healthy and attainable ways to take care of yourself and soothe any holiday stress that may be swinging your way.
1) A Moment in the Morning
Let’s start at the beginning; when you wake up in the morning. Whether you see the first light of day or the shade of a nightlamp, there are certain intentional ways you can start your day to minimize and ease tension. How we start our days can often set the precedence for the moments that follow. And while we may not be able to control the triggering events that take place, we are able to have some control over our response to them.
By providing yourself with the necessary tools. Sometimes this is as easy as simply taking a moment before you kick into gear about all the negative things you have to do for the day. Maybe a simple moment of stillness, keeping your eyes closed, and a few gentle deep breathes is the starting point.
Whether you are interested in meditation or not, a simple few moments of stillness with a soft focus on your breath is undeniably beneficial. And if you want to try something a little offbeat, you could dip your toes in visualization. Perhaps by sitting in stillness, you can visualize what a good, peaceful day looks like for you.
Visualize yourself flowing through the day with ease and grace, even if the events seem to spiral into chaos. Be like water; allow your emotional state to be steady and flow around the obstacles that come your way. And if that’s too new-age for you, simply take a pause and a deep, focused breath when you feel your stress levels start to rise. Sometimes, a moment’s pause is all it takes.
2) Could you use some extra support?
Sometimes we need a little help, and that’s okay.
These days many people are realizing the trauma that life can wreck. But at the same time, we are also seeing more people than ever before realize that stress does not have to be an integral part of everyday life.
People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder, anxiety, and depression, or even people that need some help getting through public speaking often turn to prescription medication. In most cases, while medication may have initially reduced anxiety, the long term use of some medication is just not feasible due to side effects or other reasons.
Various products on the market offer support for a sense of calm and ease.
Herbal remedies such as Chamomile and Valerium have long been used to support a sense of calm and promote peace of mind. More recently, stress and CBD (aka cannabidiol) have been linked in various studies to understand how we react to certain plant phytocannabinoids. Most CBD products that you find in today’s market are made from hemp plants and, as such, have less than 0.3% of the psychoactive cannabinoid, THC, making the effects of CBD safe from any ‘high.’
The hemp and CBD market has experienced a surge of interest. Products like CBD balms for targeted relief during the cold weather and CBD oil for anxiety are becoming a standard item in many shopping carts. More in-depth data needs to be collected on CBD’s effects, although many enjoy it as a way to support a sense of calm.
It is always recommended to have a chat with your health practitioner for medical advice on how CBD works with your current medication.
3) Take Care of Yourself
By giving your body and mind the right tools, you can manage stress a little bit better. But there’s no magic incantation. Instead, a conscious effort needs to be made to eat healthily and to get moving. As simplistic as it may sound, incorporating more whole foods into your diet and reducing the intake of processed foods can help to curb your trigger reactions.
Moving your body, whether in the form of a quick dance in the morning to wake up or an evening run to destress, can be hugely beneficial. Exercise helps to release certain ‘happy hormones’ that can help to remind us that dealing with stress can be handled in a more positive way.
Simple lifestyle changes are among the most underrated ways to manage not only holiday stress but also daily stress.
Stress often seems to be referred to as the invisible enemy. But once we start to look at the subject with greater depth, we can understand the causes and how best to deal with it.
The Endocannabinoid System and Stress
The endocannabinoid system is a complex communication system with receptors throughout the body, including the nervous system. Usually referred to as the ECS, this complex network is the key to keeping many essential body systems in a state of balance or homeostasis. If the ECS is unable to regulate the systems efficiently, stress and other conditions could be spurred on.
Part of the ECS system comprises endocannabinoid signalers. A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found these signalers in the “stress-sensitive nuclei of the hypothalamus, as well as upstream limbic structures such as the amygdala… it may play an important role in regulating…. behavioral effects of stress.”
The ECS influences neuronal synaptic communication and certain biological functions linked to stress. This is done via the communication system hosted by the vast array of receptors throughout the nervous system.