The Holiday season is a time of joy and peace. So why do people feel so stressed and chaotic or even lonely? It is easy to be focused on all of the tasks you have to get done, or places you have to visit, family you need to spend time with, and stuff to buy. For this season I am going to give you some tips on how to stay calm and peaceful through the end of the year rush.
Finding peace does first start within yourself. I encourage you to let go of any worries, fears, or stressors that surround you. Look for the good all around you, and stay grateful for all the many things that you have already. Focusing on what you want or don’t have can increase feelings of anxiety. As well as focusing on what you had, what you have lost, or whom you have lost can increase depression. Instead try to remember fond memories with lost loved ones, and appreciate the time you had with them. Quiet your mind by closing your eyes and using your five senses. What do you hear, see, smell or feel as you walk outside? Staying in the moment can help relieve feelings of stress. Use meditation, sauna, yoga, hot tub, or a hot bath with Epsom salts to relax the muscles. Listening to music, audible books, reading, or playing instruments can be relaxing for the mind. Pick something and make it a regular hobby for yourself, at least three times a week.
When December rolls around and all the holiday gatherings are happening it can be overwhelming to think about spending money. It may seem like an obligation to buy gifts, decorations, holiday food items, and alcohol. I would suggest focusing on quality time with others versus spending money. There are many ways to do this for a low cost such as holding a cookie baking or craft-making day. Sign up for a local race with family, or try a new sport like ice-skating. Hold a potluck dinner with friends instead of going out, or do a “white elephant” gift day instead of buying everyone in your family a gift. Limit alcohol to 1-2 on social occasions and drink sparkling water with lime instead. Consider taking a trip with your significant other as a gift instead of buying many things for them. This year really make an effort to give back to the community by donating items you don’t need, and volunteering for local shelters. “Giving” doesn’t have to be expensive.
At times, making New Year resolutions end up creating internal pressure and adding to existing stress. It can be helpful to set realistic goals based on things you already do. For example, if you already exercise 3 days a week, try adding 1 more day. If you already cook healthy meals during the week, try not to eat out on most weekends. If you are trying to reduce your alcohol intake, try cutting it in half before you cut it out completely. It is easier to make replacements for unhealthy behaviors then to restrict yourself. Substitute nuts for cheese, olive oil for butter, kombucha for wine, and cauliflower mash for potatoes. It is OK to indulge a few days during the winter, but try not to make a habit of that. You will feel lighter, more clear-minded, and ready for the New Year!
Allison Apfelbaum is a Naturopathic Primary Care Doctor at Tree of Health Integrative Medicine clinic in Woodinville, WA. To learn more go to www.treeofhealthmedicine.com or call 425-408-0040 to schedule an appointment.