Although the holidays can be a wonderful time to see family and friends, this time of year can trigger a lot of stress. Whether it’s spending too much time with houseguests or sharing meals with people who have different and possibly strong opinions. Being outside your normal routine can be stressful. We all know that stress is a major trigger for autoimmune diseases, and something we all work to minimize. There are some things you can do to minimize your stress levels over the holidays and prevent those post-holiday flares.
Here Are My Top Tips For Stress Management This Holiday Season
- Remember to breathe. One of the most basic human needs is breath. We need to breathe in order to live. Stress causes our breathing patterns to change because our flight or fight mode kicks in. Our breath becomes more shallow and irregular and shallow breaths can trigger more anxiety. Breathing also helps activate our parasympathetic nervous system to help it calm down quite a bit. The parasympathetic nervous system the part of your nervous system that puts the brakes on our stress response. This part of the nervous system helps us calm down and it restores balance to the fight or flight hormones and neurotransmitters that were released.
Here Is A Technique To Try
Controlled and relaxed breathing has many benefits including a better functioning immune system, which we all could benefit from, more energy, and lower levels of stress hormones. When you are feeling stressed, try doing this deep breathing technique.
The goal is to breathe in for half the amount of time that you breathe out. For instance, slowly breathe in and fill your entire belly with oxygen while counting to four. Hold your breath for one second at the top of that breath. Then slowly release and breathe out for eight counts. You could also do three counts in and six counts out and so forth.
2. Carve out a little self-care time. This time of year is so busy and you need to take a little self-care time to recenter and focus on yourself. Remember you cannot be the best version of yourself if you do not take care of yourself. This task may seem totally impossible with the endless to-do list for the holidays, especially if you’re hosting this year. However, neglecting yourself and your needs will come back to bite you in the you know what come January.
Tips For Self-Care
- Here’s how you can sneak in a little me time during the busy holiday season. Make movement a priority. Schedule your exercise into your calendar as if it were the most important meeting of the day. This is your time to be alone to move your body and to get those endorphins kicking.
- Get a guest to babysit. If you have littles and visitors in town, ask them to play with your kids for 30 minutes while you go have alone time. Use this time to do something that makes you feel good. Read a book, take a walk, or even write in your journal.
- Meditate. If you meditate regularly do not, by any means, let this slide during the holidays. This is what you need the most. Try waking up a little early for a meditation session or do it right before you go to sleep.
- Journaling. Using a regular or gratitude journal can really help keep you grounded and focused over the holidays. Take a few minutes to jot down what you are grateful for. This can help keep you in that positive state of mind.
3. Bring your own food to meals. Sometimes family isn’t the only thing that can trigger stress. If you’re living with an autoimmune disease, food allergies or sensitivities, the holidays can be incredibly stressful. Take it from me. I’ve been gluten and dairy-free for over 15 years. I am totally used to celebrating with food restrictions. Celebrating with family and friends at another person’s home can be incredibly stressful, in the sense that you may not be able to eat anything. So here’s how to fix this dilemma.
- Ask the host or hostess what the meal plan is. Let them know there are things that you can’t eat. If they’re willing to accommodate you, Fantastic! If not, ask if you can bring your own food. I do this all the time and sometimes it is the easiest and best solution to making sure you can eat and not get sick.
Just Walk Away
4. Let it roll. I even tell my daughter, just let it roll. It’s hard to be with a lot of people over the holidays, especially if you’re an introvert like myself. People can say things that are hurtful to you, even if their intentions are not ill will. Remember, you’re not the only one dealing with holiday stress. Everyone else around you is probably stressed out too. When you get stressed you tend to take it out on the people you love.
My best advice is to just let it roll off your back. Rather than start a conflict or heated discussion. Take a deep breath and walk away. Do not take things personally and try to remain calm. It is so much easier said than done. But if you can do it, your stress hormones will definitely thank you.
Just to recap, today we focus on my top tips for keeping your stress at bay this holiday season. Remember to practice deep breathing, carve out some time for yourself, plan ahead for meals, and let it roll. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season. You can follow me on Instagram at @the.autoimmune.dietitian or Facebook at @annierubinnutrition or my website.