It’s already starting…there are Christmas decorations in the local stores!!! Autumn is here and the change of seasons marks the beginning of a four-month period of vacation and stress. Here are five solid tips for reducing stress between Halloween and New Years.
1- Get solid sleep in terms of quantity and quality
Your body needs enough sleep to be able to rejuvenate itself each night. Since a normal sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes, keep your sleep in 90-minute intervals (6, 7.5, or 9 hours) so you can wake up more refreshed each day.
Almost as important, give yourself a consistent bedtime. Your body has a natural rhythm. The more consistent you are at bedtime, the more rested you will be.
If falling asleep is a problem for you, there are other steps you can take to help. Beyond the obvious advice to avoid caffeine 4-6 hours before bed, create a sleep routine for yourself, take quiet time 20-30 minutes before bed. What you focus on during that time is what you will subconsciously think about all night. Similarly, don’t eat too much before bed and keep your bedroom relatively cool and well ventilated. On the nutrition side, you might want to try a light protein snack (a glass of milk, sliced turkey in a rice cake) or a cup of chamomile tea to induce sleep.
2- Always choose the healthiest option to eat
Avoid telling yourself, “I can’t have that candy,” it creates scarcity. An easier way to manage all the treats, desserts, and drinks is to always choose the healthiest option. Instead of the double layer chocolate cake, have the chocolate chip cookie. Beware of excess caffeine and sugars.
Keep your health and don’t diet during the holidays. Make it your goal to keep the same weight! There are so many treats, desserts, parties and temptations. Eat and drink in moderation. By the way, there is a connection between overeating and being tired, so make sure you get enough sleep, it will help put you in the frame of mind to make better decisions.
3- Find a way to exercise, without excuses
Not only will it help you burn off those extra calories you’re forced to eat, but the body is made to move so we can feel better. Find a way to physically move every day. You can find a 4 minute workout on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXy3NjHtBSc&NR=1. It will boost your metabolism and help you feel better. Remember, where there is a will, there is a way. If you don’t make time for your body, your body will make you make time for it, in the form of colds, flu, and lack of energy.
4- Give yourself a timeout
Take a yoga class, learn to meditate, or put on that relaxing music for 5 minutes. When things get too crazy, give yourself a break. There are many ways to do it. For some, taking a breather might mean walking 15 minutes around the block, giving yourself permission to sit down and watch a specific TV show, or sneaking in 5 minutes of quiet in your car in the parking lot. For others, it might mean committing to “unplug” from all electronic devices for one night each week.
5- Plan ahead but be flexible
Put your sleep, exercise, and breaks for the next four months on your calendar right now and commit to sticking to them. But, when things start to get crazy, stay flexible by prioritizing the day. Don’t let the scheduled time disappear to de-stress. Reschedule immediately. Stay proactive and flexible.
If you start to feel overwhelmed, “download your brain” everything you need to do on a piece of paper and put a “label” on each line item. Decide if it is “important and urgent”, “important but not urgent”, “urgent but not important” or “not urgent and not important”.
Sorting through your to-dos will help you decide what needs to be addressed or left on the schedule, and what can be pushed back or eliminated.
The whole period around the holidays can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be something you dread. Stress is best managed by being proactive. It’s often a response to overwhelm and a general sense of lack of control: too many things coming your way and too little time to complete them.
So choose to take back that control and manage the stress of the holidays by being proactive in your planning and preparing yourself with the coping skills you need to enjoy the holiday season.