The holidays are often recognized as a time of joy and togetherness but can also be time of sadness and increased stress. While this time of year comes with many social gatherings and a reminder to be grateful for those we love and all the good in our lives, it can also come with increased peer pressures, overwhelming stress from increased commitments and expectations and a reminder that some of the people we love most are no longer with use. The holiday blues can manifest for a multitude of reasons, but the encouraging news is there are also a number of ways to help combat the negative emotions that so many experience during this time.
In fact, did you know that over 60% of adults report that they experience to holiday blues? That’s a big percentage. We might not realize that we aren’t alone in our feelings because this isn’t typically something people like to express or share with others. Who wants to be the person that is talking about the negatives of the holidays or how sad and lonely they are feeling? If you are a part of the majority, and you find yourself struggling over the holidays, know you aren’t alone and don’t be afraid to talk about it or seek out resources to help you.
We know this is a common but not typically talked about experience and that’s why we developed a 3-part, wellness workshop to specifically help those who are struggling with any of the emotions or stress that can accompany the holidays. Below we are sharing two of our best and most effective strategies for combating the holiday blues. Much like our health, our emotional state is largely within our power to control.
Practice Conscious Consumerism (It’s not what you think!)
Maybe you have heard the term conscious consumerism in regard to making more thoughtful choices when shopping, which is important and great starting point, but this isn’t the only area of our lives that we need to make more conscious decisions. Consumption comes in many forms and spans beyond where you shop for gifts or what you eat. What we watch as our forms of entertainment, who we surround ourselves with in social settings, at work and at home, scrolling on social media, how much news we are watching, how you spend your down time, these are all inputs that have a huge impact on our mental and emotional state and our overall health. Unfortunately, there are a lot of sources of toxic inputs, and we don’t realize how many of them we are exposed to or how it affects us on a deeper level.
By focusing our attention and awareness on our current habits, or what we are consuming on a daily basis, we can start to make more conscious and intentional choices about how we are spending our time. Take a minute to pause and think about your day-to-day routine. Are there any habits that you can identify that might be contributing to your overall stress or negatively effecting your emotional state? Or ask yourself how you are feeling when you finish scrolling on social media or leave a social setting. Take note of how you feel and start to identify sources that leave you feeling drained, emotionally exhausted or irritable. This is how we become more conscious about our choices and begin making intentional choices that support us and allow us to enjoy more of the holidays.
It’s especially important to check in with yourself during the holidays because we can unintentionally be giving away our personal power. We outsource our decision making to others when we allow peer pressures to dictate our social calendars and gift lists. We can actually find this to be the case in many areas of our lives and often times we don’t even notice it. Don’t let social pressures dictate your holidays. Ask yourself, does this serve me? Is this something I want to do or do I feel obligated to do it? If the answer is no or if you simply don’t want to engage or attend whatever you’re being asked to participate in, then say no! You don’t need an excuse or other plans. Sometimes saying no to avoid becoming overwhelmed or busy is exactly what you need to make sure you are feeling your best and can enjoy the celebrations and events you are a part of.
Movement Helps Combat the Holiday Blues
Movement is another effective way to help manage the holiday blues! By being active, you can kick start an upswing in your emotions. Exercise is probably our preferred method for managing the stress of the holidays and keeping our emotions stable because it has both an immediate and a cumulative effect and it is great at regulating our nervous system and calming the mind. When we exercise our stress hormones decrease and our neurotransmitters, endorphins, increase. When we increase the production of our endorphins or our “feel-good” neurotransmitters they signal to the body that you are safe and in no physical danger which can help contribute to a more relaxed and less stressed state.
More specifically, moderate intensity aerobic exercise has been shown over and over to have a positive impact on the way people respond to negative emotions and help contribute to a more positive disposition. You don’t need to spend hours in the gym or see stars from lifting heavy weights. Just 5-to-10-minute bouts can make a huge difference. Try incorporating short bouts of moderate intensity movement throughout the day in small increments if you can. The most important thing is to do something that brings your sensory and neurological input to a minimum, so try to avoid doing exercises that are ultra-stimulating like heavy weight training to loud music in a busy gym. Stick to forms of movement that are moderate intensity and incorporate slow, intentional movement and breath work when you are already experiencing heightened stress or dealing with tough emotions.
Want to learn more about how you can beat the holiday blues and enjoy the holiday season to its fullest?! We have you covered! Our live workshops are available on demand so you can learn the signs and symptoms of the holiday blues, get the tools you need to overcome them and practice with guided exercises led by Stacy McCarthy, on your own time.