Updated: Jan 11
The holidays are upon us, and the 2020 holiday season is coming on the tail end of a year the whole world would agree has been stressful at best. For literally everyone on the planet, this has been a year of managing stress on multiple fronts, so how do we enter this holiday season compared with years past? How do we plan for the next seven weeks and make the most out of this time?
For many individuals, the normal holiday season is full of the hustle and bustle of events and social gatherings, connecting with family and friends and the mad dash of shopping for gifts. For others, the holidays are a time of loneliness and feeling disconnected, missing loved ones, and feeling stress from the added financial burden of gift giving. This year proves to be uncharted territory for many individuals, so approaching these holidays as a unique experience can help provide a sense of relief from the normal chaos or isolation.
Here are some tips for a successful (pandemic) holiday season.
Check in with yourself:
Where is your personal level of stress at this time?
Are you maintaining your obligations at work or school while balancing your daily life?
Think realistically about what energy level you have left to give during the holiday, letting go of expectations past or present, and instead considering your current mental and physical state.
Next, check in with others:
Are your friends or family acting more isolated?
Are your loved ones going to work or school and managing to balance their lives?
Reach out to the people you care about and touch bases with them regarding their energy level for the holidays.
Consider ways you can take care of yourself to make the holiday more enjoyable:
Exercise daily. At the expense of sounding like a broken record, exercise is truly one of the best forms of stress management. When we least feel like exercising is actually when we need it the most. Many health benefits are directly associated with daily exercise such as elevating endorphines, improving mood, decreasing anxiety and assisting with sleep. Read more about the benefits of exercise in dealing with stress here. Some of my favorite at-home workout videos during the pandemic have been through GymRa. They have a free YouTube channel to help you get your workout on while still at home.
Get plenty of sleep. Think about the holiday season as an opportunity to redefine your relationship with yourself. As much as we give of ourselves to others - especially during the holidays - it is important to give yourself the gift of sleep. No one can catch up on your sleep for for you. While we sleep our body takes care of housekeeping, cleans out the gut, builds up our cortisol level for energy the next day, fights inflammation and improves memory and brain function. You can read more about the functions of sleep here and make sure to check out our blog post featuring tips to help you optimize sleep. One of my favorite supplements to help me sleep is Mind Your Mind which is melatonin free.
Make a list of your to-do activities for the upcoming holiday season. When we walk around with a checklist of tasks accumulating in our head, it is easy to feel disorganized and weighed down from the burden of trying to remember what needs to be done. Making a list frees up necessary brain power to take control of tasks one by one and provides a sense of control. You can read more about how to make effective lists here.
Consider meal prep and planning ahead by breaking down responsibilities days prior to your big meal. Knowing what to cook ahead of time can be a big time saver. It can streamline shopping, decrease time in the kitchen and increase time spent enjoying company or just relaxing. Read about how to prepare ahead for Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Want to forget about the meal prep and just order a meal ready to eat? There is great power in deciding how and when you want to use your time, and if cooking a holiday meal just does not do it for you this year, there are plenty of options available to get great food on the table. One of our favorite options for ready to go, delicious and nutritious meals all year round is Fresh-N-Fit. They are a local company that delivers chef prepared meals to you or to a designated pick up location in your neighborhood. Check out their meal options online. Enjoy 10% all orders with the discount code EFM10.
This holiday season offers a unique opportunity to redefine how we share our feelings of love and joy for family and friends, to reevaluate the way we give back to our community and to reexamine our relationship with ourselves. Recognizing our need for self care while managing stress and daily life has been a topic of much discussion this year. Maybe we can learn some important lifestyle changes that can stay with us into the New Year, even as things begin to normalize. Maybe, we can look forward to a healthier "normal."
Gina Ditta-Donahue is a certified Family Nurse Practitioner and Anti-Aging Medicine provider. She is the author of "Josh's Smiley Faces: A Story About Anger," a children's book aimed at helping young children and their parents navigate anger management and build adaptive life skills. She is also co-owner of Elevate Functional Medicine.