It’s that time of year: your work is piling up and you’ve got strong deadlines, but you’ve also got vacation days coming up so you need to finish that report ASAP, but everyone who needs to provide you with data is already on leave… Your family has taken over your house and you’re stuck sleeping in the kids’ room… You were planning a tropical escape, but the weather has messed with your travel schedule… The dog is sick, because he ate all the Christmas candy and yarfed on the tree skirt… The airline lost your luggage & your family’s guilt tripping you for bailing on Christmas… whatever’s going on, it’s all a bit much.
Yes, all of those situations are pretty extreme, but may be common place in your household. You may be sticking around home, in the office, at a resort, on a cruise, or traveling to family. Whatever your situation is this winter break, I’ve gathered 9 Ways to Help you Destress Over the Holidays. A great thing about this list is that you can do all of these wherever your holidays take you!
Honestly, whatever you decide to do to destress, turn your phone on airplane mode for a few hours. Don’t worry about social media likes or comments, don’t stress about your family’s frantic plan-making, take a few hours to ignore work e-mails. It’ll be okay, I promise. You need this destress’ing time! One of my favorite things to do when my brain is too full and my stomach is twisting in knots is to snuggle up tight with my kitty under a blanket. Sometimes I fall asleep, sometimes I just feel his body moving with his breath against my body and it calms me.
I need to write it out. Whether I’m writing my feelings down, or doing a creative writing exercise, or drafting a blog post. Putting physical pen to paper always calms me down.
Whether you’re in to creative writing, gratitude and mindfulness, need help remember how Not to Give a F*ck or to Let that Sh*t Go, all of these links here will take you to prompt journals to help you start writing it out!
(2) Belt it Out
It’s totally cliche, but frequently I need to throw on Let it Go and remind myself that I cannot control what others say, all I can do is control how I feel about what they say.
Dance it Out! If you’re a long-time Grey’s Anatomy fan, then you probably get that reference. But getting up and moving along to the beat of the music (or to the beat of your own music) can be super cathartic and can help you work through your stress. Personally, I love dancing it out with Just Dance on my Nintendo Switch!
Get your whole family involved! Up to four people can dance on the Switch (you just need 2 extra controllers)- it’s so much fun to do with a group. We don’t even look at the score, we just have a good time and usually end up busting out laughing!
I am so bad about meditating, my brain is always on hyperdrive, so turning the noise off is incredibly difficult, but all the more necessary. I’m trying to make it a part of my routine, or at minimum, part of my go-to moves for when I am overwhelmed.
I’ve been enjoying the Simple Habit App.
Check out the top meditation apps of 2019 here.
I’ve enjoyed incorporating meditation into my destress routine these past few stressful days, and definitely plan on making it one of my resolutions for 2020. I’m thinking I’d like to start small and work my way up into having it be a part of my regular routine. If you have any recommendations for guided meditations or a good book, let me know in the comments below!
Whether you like doing a simple routine in the comfort of your living room, or at the apartment gym, or in a studio, there’s definitely time to grab your mat & squeeze in a short routine. It will make all the difference. I’ve found that when I start my day- I’m talking get out of bed and do it- with 5 sun salutations, I have more energy and a significantly more positive outlook on my entire day!
If you’ve got a doggo, he’s likely to want to join you on your yoga mat- don’t let it stress you out, enjoy his kisses and doing downward dog together!
Endorphins. Do what you need to do to get those endorphins. If you’re a runner, go for it! HIIT’s your jam, find a class, like a lower impact class like pilates, you can do that!
Go for a Walk. If you’re on vacation and can’t figure out an easy way to get that endorphin surge, consider going for a walk, along the beach, through the woods, or down a city block. Just get moving, get some sun, and get some fresh air. It does a world of good!
(5) Surround Yourself with Things You Love
Surround yourself in things that make you happy, for me, I throw on some Harry Potter movie bloopers, or have a cup of hot cider from my Stitch mug- every time I use it, it instantly brings me joy!
And with pets + people you love! Many of these de-stressing suggestions are individual activities, but if you’re an extrovert, chances are that hanging out by yourself is more likely to bum you out than lower stress levels. Snuggle your kitties, play with your pups, and make plans with good friends. Or go on date night! Whatever you decide to do,
(6) Adult Coloring Book.
A March 2018 article on PsychologyToday.com examined the causes and effects of adult coloring books in relation to anxiety. This examination included reviewing several studies that have been performed over the past decade on a adult coloring books. The studies referenced showed that there was a noticeable reduction in anxiety levels in adults who colored in a guided (outlined) mandala pattern after just 20 minutes. Other studies have found that state anxiety (i.e. “I’m feeling anxious right now” vs. personality trait anxiety i.e. “I’m an anxious person”) are significantly reduced after 30 minutes of coloring a mandala page, however, personality trait anxiety was also reduced, but only at half the level of state anxiety. The article is careful to acknowledge that while adult coloring books are therapeutic, they are not therapy. Either way, I will definitely be incorporating a coloring book this season (one of my closest friends already bought me the new Thomas Kinkade Disney coloring book that I couldn’t wait to start!). I may also be adding this mandala coloring book & some colored pencils to a few people’s Christmas lists this year ;).
*Gift Guide Tip: “Calm the F*ck Down: An Irreverent Adult Coloring Book” is a great idea for the stress cadet with a sense of humor in your life!
(7) Schedule Yourself.
One of the simplest–and possibly most obvious, but bear with me–things you can do to destress is to write down everything that you need to do, everything you’ve been invited to, and everything that you want to do. Prioritize what you actually need to do, what you feel obligated to do (these are different), what you actually want to do, and make sure to mark what you’ve been invited to, but you actually don’t want to do. Then make a schedule for the season, writing it all down will help to prevent yourself from getting over programed.
This year, we made our schedule through an Advent Calendar– I loved researching their history and creating our own. You can see the blog post all about Advent Calendars and how to make your own soon!!
And schedule time for yourself. With all of these plans, make sure you’re not overprogramming yourself (something I’m prone to do). Throw in a “night off”, self-care, or movie watching night to make sure that you’ve got some down time. If you’re planning a date night, maybe keep two dates on the calendar so that if y’all aren’t up for it on the first night (or a work trip comes up) you already have a back-up date blocked off and you can still make sure to get some one-on-one time with each other.
Crafting can be good for your health– it can help with anxiety, depression, and stress management! Studies have found knitting to be amongst the top therapeutic forms of crafting. Personally, scrapbooking is my favorite! But my niece taught me some origami over the weekend. However, if you’re the type of person who is a hyper perfectionist (absolutely nothing wrong with that), then crafting may be more of a stressor than a distressing agent for you.
(9) Get Some Sunshine!
My friends gave me a really hard time, and I mean a really hard time for doing this silly snowy photoshoot, but honestly, I had an insanely good time frolicking in the snow and soaking up the vitamin D that it was totally worth it!
Between sitting inside at work all day, overcast weather days, busy indoor family events, long travel days in airports and planes, it’s the least sunny time of year! Vitamin D insufficiency affects almost 50% of the population worldwide! While studies are inconclusive about what causes depression and whether sunshine medically helps produce brain chemicals to elevate our mood, one thing’s clear: it certainly doesn’t hurt!
Without making it an official item on the list, please keep in mind, that you always have the option of talking to someone- whether it’s a professional such as a therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, counselor, or you tell someone about your anxieties, it’s always okay to talk it out! If you’re prone to anxieties while traveling, considering employing some strategies and a few key items to pack for your trip to keep your anxieties at bay–or to help manage them when they crop up.
If you are a creative person and have found coloring books and sketch prompts to be beneficial in the past, you might consider a session with an art therapist.
Let me know how you choose to destress over the holidays or while on vacay!