Avoiding Holiday Stress During A Pandemic
Holidays are normally stressful but we always have certain expectations. This holiday season is going to be way different than any we have had in our lifetime. This year is vastly different and it could be quite anxiety-inducing for those who are planners and like to know what to expect.
Although there are so many variables and many of them are out of our control, there are still plenty of things we still can control. We want to share some of our top tips to deal with holiday stress (even in a pandemic) with you.
But first, let’s talk about why we should keep our stressors in check, to begin with.
Why is Stress Dangerous?
Stressing out doesn’t feel good. Your scalp gets all tight. Your skin starts looking a little older. Your eyes start to look darker underneath. Your sleep is much less restful. It feels awful.
But there is so much going on inside your body when you stress that isn’t good for your short or long term health.
Stress is part of our “lizard brain.” It’s part of our body’s natural functions to protect us. However, it really doesn’t do us much good if we aren’t trying to outrun a lion.
A chemical cascade begins when we start stressing. Our bodies start producing higher levels of different hormones to help us get on the move. When the adrenaline and cortisol start flowing, but our bodies don’t start moving any faster they just accumulate in our bodies. That’s where that anxious feeling comes from because our bodies want to move. They’re doing everything in their power to get us to move and out of the way of danger.
But our bodies don’t know there is no real physical danger.
When all of this happens our digestion is slowed, along with a reduction in growth and sex hormone production. Then our bodies try to dispose of all of these extra stress hormones and begin to regulate. But when this process repeats itself our organs begin to be damaged.
Stress can lead to:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Upper respiratory diseases
- Reproductive issues
- Chronic inflammation and associated diseases like obesity and diabetes
- Autoimmune disorders
- Anxiety and depression
- Gastrointestinal conditions
When it comes to holidays our bodies don’t know that seeing family members isn’t dangerous to us. But they react the same way. Here are our top tips to help you manage your holiday stress and deal with the new stressors that may be causing you concern.
1. Figure out a routine and stick to it
Routines aren’t easy to keep (we get it). However, adding some sort of structure to your day can help you have some peace of mind. You have something to expect and some order to the chaos.
Hold this loosely so you’re not stressed out if things don’t go exactly according to plan. Make sure you’re eating and sleeping at around the same time every day, and exercising (lightly) every day.
These few things can help bring familiarity to your day and help you feel in control when you might be feeling a bit out of control.
2. Deal with your COVID-19 related stress in a way that feels right to you
Everyone feels differently about how to deal with COVID-19. When it comes to this, respecting your own and other’s boundaries is key to avoiding stressful arguments.
If you don’t feel comfortable traveling, don’t travel. But don’t take it upon yourself to try and force others to do the same.
If you think it’s absurd that people are being so strict about this, then travel as you please, but respect the boundaries of others.
Controlling yourself in this situation rather than trying to control others is what will help you to avoid stressing over this particular issue.
3. Get your SAD under control
If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), this is the time of year it ramps up. Figuring out what the cause of yours is and how to best control it for you, will help with this year and every year to come. Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure across the board, but some things to look into include:
- Light therapy
- Get on a good sleep/wake routine
- Talk to your doctor about your melatonin levels
- Get your neurotransmitter levels checked (serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine)
All of these things have been linked to SAD. So seeing what the cause yours is can be the first step to healing.
4. Give your immune system some TLC
If you’re concerned about contracting COVID-19 or the seasonal flu this one’s for you. Your immune system just like every other part of your body requires specific nutrients to stay healthy. Making sure you’re getting the right amounts of polyphenols, vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins, and carbs will help you stay ahead of the game.
Focusing on a well-balanced diet helps your immune system stay strong. Reducing stress, sugar, and salt can help you substantially. Making sure to stay on a good sleeping and exercise routine can help your immune system too.
5. Focus on your gut health while you’re at it
70% of your immune system is in your gut. You can do a lot for your health just by making sure you get the right foods. Feeding your good bacteria can help to keep everything running smoothly.
Prebiotics are foods that actually feed your bacteria to help promote the growth of your good bacteria.
Probiotics are foods that add bacteria to your microbiome. These are sometimes a more unsafe option because some people are more prone to infection and adding bacteria can cause more problems.
Postbiotics are byproducts of bacterial fermentation of foods. These byproducts are what helps your body to maintain health.
Foods full of polyphenols and products like Atrantil are both a prebiotic and postbiotic that help to maintain your microbiome and immune health. Good gut health has also been shown to help people manage depression and anxiety.
6. Acknowledge your feelings instead of avoiding them
A lot of times when it comes to holidays we come into contact with old friends and family members. This can be an amazing thing but also a slightly stressful thing when they know how to push our buttons.
Many times we hold our tongues and try to keep the feelings inside so we don’t cause a scene. However, bottling up these feelings adds fuel to the fire of anxiety. It’s been proven that being emotionally aware can help us to deal with our feelings better and avoid these blowouts.
Emotional awareness was also proven to help mental cognition, anxiety, depression, physical pain, and quality of life. Test it out and see if you notice a difference.
7. Practice being mindful
We hear a lot about mindfulness and being grateful. They’re two great practices to implement into your life. When you are mindful you are practicing being in the moment and experiencing everything as it is. You don’t let yourself become distracted with past or future thoughts.
Mindfulness has been shown to help improve life satisfaction. It can also help you to understand people on a deeper level so you don’t become frustrated with them as easily as you normally would.
8. Make sure to laugh as much as you can
Laughter has been scientifically proven to be a successful cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). There is actually a thing called laughter therapy. Laughter has actually been found to counteract the effects of stress by reducing the stress hormones found in the blood.
Not only does laugher reduce these stress levels, but it also increases our happy neurotransmitters in our brain that help us stay in a good mood. This is why we like funny people so much!
Even though this year has been a tough one, we don’t have to let it ruin everything. If you don’t want to travel, grab some healthy snacks and video chat with one of your favorite people that can always make you laugh. You just might start a new tradition!
Give this article a “Share” to someone who might need some help navigating the holiday stress this year.