By: Katie G

continuous line drawing of woman hiding her face in despair

I love the holidays. I love decorating my tree and cozying up next to a fire, drinking hot cocoa, and spending time at home with my loved ones. 

But… I’ll say it. Even though they’re super magical, the holidays are also SUPER stressful. 

Between long flights and family obligations, budgeting for gift-giving, and a seemingly endless to-do list, I often find myself overwhelmed and stressed during a season that should be spent feeling merry and bright. After a string of holidays feeling consumed by stress and anxiety, I realized I needed to make a change if I was ever going to enjoy the holidays again.

So, I came up with a game plan, implemented it last year, and enjoyed the holidays WAY more. I’m totally planning on making sure to follow the same plan this year as well. 

Keep reading for everything I do to stay calm, cool, and collected all winter long.

1. Try to stick to somewhat regular sleep, meal, and exercise schedules

 A woman jogs outdoors on a tree-lined street in the fall

For the holidays, my husband and I usually make the 5-hour flight from California to Michigan to return to my hometown.

This usually involves him and I staying with my parents, and me falling into old habits like staying up and sleeping in way too late, eating like I still have the metabolism of an 18-year old, and avoiding the gym like my life depends on it.

And every year, without fail, this sends me into a spiral of stress, anxiety, and self-deprecation. 

So, I’ve found that one of the best ways to reduce holiday stress is to maintain some sort of normalcy in my schedule. The most important way I look to do that is by making sure I’m sleeping enough. It’s crazy how much of a difference in my mood this makes… getting my 8 hours totally helps keep my stress levels at bay.  Pro tip: I love using the “bedtime” feature on my phone’s clock app. It lets me keep track easily of how much sleep I’m getting, and set reminders for when I should be heading to bed. 

I also like to make sure I’m staying active. By no means am I a “run a 5k on Thanksgiving morning” type of person (totally respect and admire those who are, though), but I like to try to stay at least a little bit active throughout the holidays. Whether that means chasing down my nieces and nephews in the backyard or going for a walk around the neighborhood and catching up with my sister, I find myself feeling a lot better if I maintain some sort of activity throughout the season.  Another pro tip: if I do end up getting motivated to go for a jog, I use the Map My Run app to find the best trails in the area. 

In addition to sleeping enough and staying active, maintaining normalcy also includes somewhat maintaining my diet (unfortunately).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally a supporter of eating that slice of pumpkin pie with no guilt, but I always try to remind myself around the holidays that moderation is key. Keeping my diet at least somewhat normal during the holidays helps me keep my stress in check. 

Making sure I keep my sleep, diet, and exercise on track during the holidays ensures that I don’t have that notorious January 1st holiday hangover and come-down.  

2. Take calm-down breaks, and work on breathwork

A piece of paper is ripped to reveal a typed saying reading “take a break, take a breath.”

I’ve found that one of the simplest things I can do when faced with holiday stress is to simply step away for a few minutes and practice some breathwork. 

For me, my anxiety and stress often manifests itself into shortness of breath, chest tightness, and tension. I found breathwork to help relieve some of these symptoms. Learning methods to control my breath and in turn soothe my anxiety and stress has been a total game changer. Here’s an introduction to breathwork video that I found to be helpful. 

In addition to breathwork, I also like to try to put a “spin” on the negative feelings that arise for me during the holidays. Instead of frustration and overwhelm, I try to practice mindfulness, patience, and kindness. 

If I’m feeling stressed while at a standstill in traffic, I turn on a holiday Spotify playlist (this is my favorite) and try to relax. If my nerves are feeling rattled at the mall looking for that one last gift, I try showing extra kindness to the retail workers hard at work. If I’m getting frustrated by conversations at the dinner table, I try to step back and remember that patience is a virtue.

Above all, I try to remember that this is just how the holidays go sometimes and a positive outlook can make all the difference. 

3. Realize that it’s OK to say “no”

In normal years, the holidays bring with them obligation after obligation… We all know the type: ugly sweater parties, cookie exchanges, large family gatherings, etc.  

But this year, it’s looking as if these holiday obligations might be Zoom happy hour invites, video-call family gatherings, and other virtual festivities. 

No matter if things are in-person or online, it can be really overwhelming when the November and December calendars begin to fill up. While I’m so thankful to be surrounded by friends and family who love me and who I love… I’ve just found that sometimes all of these “must-do” events can get a little overwhelming, and it’s best to set boundaries with loved ones. 

Simply saying “no” if I knew that I won’t have time for a particular event did wonders last year for my anxiety and general mental wellbeing last year. Due to my less full calendar, instead of running around and keeping a tight schedule, I was able to relax and fully invest myself into each event and moment. 

Of course, some obligations (often those with family) can’t be flat-out denied, so setting these boundaries can even look like setting a specific time to leave a holiday functionand staying adamant when the moment comes.

4. Incorporate Hemp Oil Products 

The last thing I’ve found to help alleviate some of my holiday stress is to incorporate hemp oil products into my wellness routine. 

I first tried hemp oil products last year. A friend told me it might help with my work-related stress, and when I tried it, I saw immediate results that blew me away. 

In addition to it being super effective in tackling my stress, another great thing I’ve found about hemp oil is that it can be added to my routine in a super wide variety of ways. 

The simplest way to try hemp oil is definitely in soft gel form. My husband in particular loves Altura Wellness’ hemp extract soft gels because they’re so easy to put into his vitamin organizer and take right after he wakes up. I love them, too, and I try to carry a bottle with me when I’m on-the-go, so I can tackle holiday stress when it strikes. 

I also love hemp extract oil tinctures, like Altura Wellness’ tinctures, because it’s so fun to add hemp to my favorite winter recipes. I recently tried this healthy wintery chocolate mint hemp oil shake and this vegan superfood hemp oil soup, and both recipes put me into a festive mood, stress-free.  

 

I hope these tips help you enjoy this holiday season stress and anxiety free!