In the midst of excitement the holiday season brings, many of us are also faced with mounting stress. Not only do we have to meet the daily demands our lives present, but now we have the added demands that the holidays bring. From preparing copious amounts of food to shopping for holiday presents, it may seem as though we just can’t catch a break! While some amount of stress is normal, too much stress can have a seriously negative impact on your health. According to the Mayo Clinic, many perceived illnesses are actually caused by unhealthy amounts of stress. Fortunately, there’s hope: managing stress on a daily basis can have amazing health benefits. There are many positive habits that can manage stress and are easily incorporated into your day-to-day life. Though not ‘new,’ here are some simple and effective stress busters:
Exercise: As basic as it sounds, exercise can make such an improvement in how you feel. Fitting exercise into an already packed schedule may seem like an impossible task, but increased physical activity can elevate your mood and help you to be more productive. This does not mean that you have to train for a marathon or schedule that BodyPump class at the gym for every day next week. There are many simple ways to increase your physical activity during the day. You can start by simply walking more. Taking short walks outside during your lunch break or evening strolls with your family can have a huge effect on your well being. Tools such as pedometers and fitness trackers can be very helpful in motivating you to increase your steps and physical activity.
Get enough sleep: Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. As impossible as it may seem sometimes, getting sufficient sleep (the average adult needs 7-8 hours a night) is critical to maintaining both physical and mental health. After a solid night’s sleep you will feel more alert, be more productive and have more positive interactions with others–all natural stress relievers! If you’re having trouble falling asleep, try some deep breathing exercises and put away those electronics before bed. More serious conditions that can prevent healthy sleep, such as sleep apnea, need to be treated by a physician. Making a commitment to getting enough sleep can make such a big difference on your stress level!
Do what you love: In the midst of increased stress, it can be easy to forget the things that bring you joy. Even if it’s a few stolen minutes here or there—make time for the things you love! Whether it’s watching your favorite TV show, reading, or talking to a friend, don’t let your favorite activities fall by the wayside!
Show gratitude: We’ve all heard the saying ‘count your blessings,’ but we don’t always carry it with us. We may wish for higher paying jobs, more friends, more opportunities to do the things we love, but the problem is that when we fixate on the things we don’t have, we forget all that we do. Studies have shown that people who show gratitude are happier with their lives. According to WebMD, gratitude leads to greater optimism, which can actually boost the immune system and keep you healthier! On social media, one of the trends around Thanksgiving is to write one thing you are thankful for each day for 30 days, in your status. If you’re ever having one of those days when everything seems to be going wrong, take a moment to focus on the things you do have in your life—whether it’s family, friends, pets, a job that you love–and feel your stress recede.
Simplify: Get rid of the clutter in your life, both literally and figuratively. Set aside some time to organize your personal space–throwing out or donating the things that you haven’t used in a year. Clearing your physical space will also help clear your mind and get rid of unnecessary stress! If you find that your schedule is overloaded, it may be time to cut back a bit. When we try to fit too many things into our lives, we can become overwhelmed, which leads to more stress. As much as we want to have a superhero’s ability to accomplish as many things as we can in a day, no one can do it all. Recognizing your limits can help reduce stress and actually increase your productivity. Take time to figure out what is important and what brings you joy. If you find that certain activities do not fit into either category it may be time to consider dropping them!
While we can’t eliminate all stress from our lives, we can commit to small lifestyle changes that will reduce its negative effects and help us to be happier and more productive in our daily lives. Perhaps as we approach the New Year, we can all make a commitment to do at least one thing that relieves our stress. While it may not be easy, the long-term effects will certainly be worth it.
Karen Wrang is an elementary school teacher who recently reloated from Maryland to Seattle, WA with her husband and pets. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering with rescue animals, going to concerts, trying new restaurants, and reading whatever she can get her hands on.
Heubeck, Elizabeth, “Boost Your Health With a Dose of Gratitude,” WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/women/features/gratitute-health-boost
“Stress Symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior,” The Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987?pg=1
“The Benefits of Slumber,” News In Health, https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/apr2013/feature1