Updated: Nov 11, 2021
Originally written for Alive magazine: https://www.alive.com/web-exclusive/unwrapping-holiday-stressors/
Picture-perfect holiday activities are quite the antidote to stress: cozy days shared with loved ones, singing favourite tunes, eating nourishing foods from the harvest, connecting with nature while making snowmen, and getting some exercise on the skating rink all contribute to mental well-being.
But whose holidays are ever truly “perfect”? Here’s how to navigate five common holiday stressors so you can fully reap the seasonal joys and benefits. Obligations We put a lot on our plate. We cram events, responsibilities, and obligations into a relatively short time period, which comes at the expense of having less downtime for rest and rebalancing. When all is well, you might enjoy baking your specialty spice cake, but if you get a request to bring it to a party while you’re knee-deep in a to-do list longer than the paper itself, baking that cake might feel more like a burdensome chore than a sweet treat.
To avoid feeling resentful or overwhelmed, confront the issue head-on. Consider sharing how you’re feeling with the person who’s put forward the request. Practising these boundaries and putting self-care into action may be uncomfortable, but a true friend will honour your feelings and help you lighten your burden. Maxing out credit cards We tout “generosity” as an ideal to embody during the holidays. But this time of year, a lot of us do so to a fault. While there’s nothing better than seeing a smiling face opening your carefully chosen present, feeling angst until your credit card bill is finally paid off in March is no way to start the New Year.
Approach holiday spending with a strict budget before you set one foot in the store—or make one click online! The average Canadian spends more than $600 on holiday gifts. So, if you intend to spend around this amount, and it’s within your ability to do so, paying with cash can save you trepidation when your credit card bill arrives. Difficult family relationships Whether you’re avoiding a certain aunt who demands to know when you plan to have a baby, or you’re striving to keep political conversations respectful at the dinner table, navigating extended family get-togethers can sometimes feel like playing “the floor is lava.” Strained parent-child relationships during a time of gathering is another difficulty made worse by a sense of loss or loneliness.
If your family isn’t your true cup of tea, surround yourself with people who get you, and take joy in those holiday visits. And when you are with your family, honouring firm boundaries about which conversation topics you’ll discuss and which activities you’ll avoid might be the greatest act of self-care when you’re all crammed in the same house for hours or days at a time. Food: Friend or foe? As we all learn more about holistic health and individual food sensitivities, what you eat on a regular day might look vastly different from your sister’s diet, for instance. So, when everyone gathers and attempts to eat the same meal, things can get a little tricky. Eating different foods for the “special occasion” might have you spending the rest of the night reaching for painkillers or running to the toilet!
Whether you identify as gluten free, sugar free, dairy free, vegan, keto, or the like, bringing your own gravy, protein source, and dessert can help you be part of the meal while nourishing your body with food that makes you feel good.
But if you choose to indulge in something you don’t usually eat, have digestive enzymes on hand. These help you break down the food so it will cause less trouble when it gets to your intestines. Drinking ginger, camomile, and fennel teas after eating can also ease indigestion so you can keep up your party spirit. Extra winter coat When we eat more treats and laze about with family, some body composition changes are bound to happen! If you want to be mindful of your weight this time of year, you can consider restricting the degree to which you indulge.
Be clear on which treats you’re fine to live without, and which treats you’ll enjoy because they make your holiday special. By shortening your list of holiday indulgences, you’re less likely to put on extra pounds.
You can also try intermittent fasting, wherein you eat only during the window of 12 pm to 8 pm, for instance, as a way to minimize hours in the day in which you might slip in a few extra cookies and a glass of eggnog!