One of my holiday traditions is to host a crowd of family and friends for Christmas Eve dinner. Some years the guest list can number more than 50 people. This year the number is limited to four – my partner, my two kids, and myself. This kind of alteration will be playing out in homes and dining rooms across America as 2020 continues to bludgeon our holiday celebrations.
As the number of virus cases explodes, many families across the US will abstain from their traditional holiday celebrations to help keep their loved ones safe. An unfortunate consequence of this extra amount of caution is you will likely experience a different kind of stress this year, replacing the holiday season’s beautiful chaos with isolation, uncertainty, and the loss of close human connections.
But take heart, there are numerous ways to manage this potentially disappointing holiday season and make it one to remember fondly instead of scorn.
Holiday Stress Relief
Seasonal depression is common for many people during the holidays, and this year those feelings could be amplified. Here are a few ways you can prioritize your well-being, reduce stress, and connect to the spirit of the holidays no matter what your plans are this year.
1. Plan Out the Holidays
Uncertainty puts stress on your mind, so plan out every detail of your holiday – even if the details are simply binge-watching “The Queen’s Gambit.” Think this out. Plan out every Zoom call, every meal you will prepare – down to which napkin ties you’ll use. When you think about these moments, make them unique and special.
If you feel you’re going to miss your people and the traditions tied to them, recreate them yourself. If your grandmother’s pecan pie is part of your holiday tradition, make it yourself.
I like to spend the week before Christmas baking chocolate chip cookies and mocha bars to serve my friends and family at Christmas Eve dinner. This year, I’m still baking cookies, but I’m delivering them in sealed goodie bags (while wearing a mask, of course) so that we can eat them together during our planned Zoom call.
2. Avoid Social Media over the Holidays
Social media makes it almost impossible to feel good about yourself – under normal conditions.
Imagine seeing your neighbor, breaking travel restrictions, and enjoying the last week in December on the slopes while you don’t see your grandkids. I guarantee, you will feel pretty lousy about yourself – and your neighbor.
Don’t look at Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Now is the time to retrain your brain, so you no longer measure yourself by what you see on social media. And if you must get on Facebook, limit your time to five minutes, only post positive thoughts, and don’t get personal.
If you need help avoiding social media, check the screen time setting on your device for ways to force limits on yourself for these apps if the temptation is too high.
3. Practice Gratitude
During the holidays, we tend to feel we are blessed. This year it’s going to be harder to feel this way automatically. But, we are blessed – and the more you recognize it, the better you’ll feel.
The gratitude attitude leads to more positive emotions, healthier relationships, and an extraordinary ability to deal with adversity. Feeling and expressing gratitude refocuses your mental energy to the positive, counterbalancing the tendency to focus on stressors and negativity.
Gratitude naturally creates positive emotions like love, contentment, and joy, which can undo negative emotions. Every day of this holiday season, make a point of recognizing your blessings and feel gratitude.
4. Make Connections – Virtually
Reach out to your people on Facetime or Zoom. Ask them how they’re taking care of themselves. They might have some good ideas you can use and vice-a-versa.
And make sure you give compliments out generously. Think about how you feel when you receive compliments, pretty great, right? Complements are instant pick-me-ups and lovely little gifts to sprinkle on everyone in your life this year (and always).
5. Be Generous
Be as generous as you can with your time and money – especially towards people who are isolated and need extra help – like the local mission or homeless shelter. The most powerfully positive message you can give yourself is that you are capable and willing to help others.
Everyday Stress Relief
It’s not so simple to put on a happy face and pretend everything is coming up roses, especially now. With that said, there are effective ways based on solid research and concrete techniques that can help you deal with everyday stress that make you feel instantly better.
1. Turn Off the News
Between the virus situation, natural disasters, and politics, the news can wreck your mind. If you get stressed out watching the news, turn it off. Be smart about the information you look at and how much time you’re tuned in. You can peak to keep up, but that’s all. Reading the story instead of watching the images on TV can also be a helpful stress reducer as it’s easier to stop reading than to stop watching.
2. Reduce Screen Time
Screen time takes up about 3.5 hours of the average American adult’s day or roughly 22%; that’s just the time you spend looking at your smartphone or tablet. This time does not include the eight hours in front of a work computer every day or TV watching.
Research shows that too much screen time increases your mortality, causes depression, and damages your eyes. Looking at screens tell your brain that it’s daytime and keep it buzzing – making a full, good night’s sleep less likely.
Reducing the amount of time you spend looking at screens, especially before bed, will be a giant leap towards less stress. It’s helpful to keep your devices out of your bedroom. Instead of looking through Facebook before lights out, read a real book, take a shower, listen to music, relax.
3. Box Breathing
The US military recommends box breathing to veterans who have PTSD as many studies show that it works instantly to bring down stress. And the great thing about this breathing technique is that it can be practiced anytime and anywhere.
1. Find a comfortable place to lie down or sit.
2. Slowly inhale through your nose for a count of 4.
3. Hold your breath for a count of 4.
4. Exhale through your mouth for a count of 4.
5. Repeat the set three times.
Box breathing or rhythmic breathing – breathe in for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4 exhale, hold for 4.
Try doing three sets in one sitting. If you’ve got the time, try ten sets, which is similar to deep meditation.
4. Take a Break and Enjoy a Meal
If you’re working from home, you’ve likely spent the entire day without a substantial break. That has just got to stop. High reliance on laptops and devices is associated with elevated stress levels. Give yourself a break in your day, every day. Go outside, slow down, enjoy a 15-minute walk, don’t look at a screen, eat a meal. Your subconscious will feel relief, and you’ll very likely feel recharged.
Studies show that people are having trouble sleeping with lots more worries and distractions. Once you hit age 18, 7 hours of sleep is the minimum amount of time your brain needs to recharge. Getting 7+ hours of sleep washes the brain out. It’s like turning the dishwasher on at night and waking up in the morning to squeaky clean dishes. A night of uninterrupted sleep almost always results in an energized brain and an uplifted mood.
6. Give Your Brain a Boost
Brain-boosting nootropic supplements can have a positive impact on your brain function, attitude, and stress levels. Stonehenge Health’s Dynamic Brain provides powerful dosages of essential vitamins and minerals, including brain-boosting ingredients like Vitamin B, Choline, Bacopa, and Huperzine-A. These ingredients together have been shown to help reduce your stress and improve your mood. And don’t forget, two once-daily capsules of Dynamic Brain helps improve your memory, focus, mental clarity, and cognitive function too.
It’s crucial to take care of yourself this holiday season so that this winter won’t feel so blue.
“This Is What Too Much Screen Time Does To You”. 2020. Bustle. https://www.bustle.com/wellness/117838-5-things-too-much-screen-time-does-to-your-body#:~:text=5%20Things%20Too%20Muc