In Chinese medicine we talk about causes of disease and health imbalances in terms of excess and deficiency. The holiday season is typically a time of excess.
Excess indulgence of rich foods, drinks and alcohol
Excess activity: running around shopping, attending parties and social events, cooking, cleaning, hosting parties and house guests, traveling, etc.
Excessive stress and emotions that often occur at this time of year: difficult family dynamics; feelings of sadness, loss and grief that may come up when we find ourselves missing loved ones during this time; Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and societal pressure for this to be the most wonderful time of the year when we just aren’t feeling that way.
All of this excess can then lead to deficiency / depletion of energy and / or motivation, or a mix of stress (excess) and fatigue (deficiency). We may feel drained, exhausted, unmotivated or depressed. Or perhaps we feel wired and tired, revved-up but unable to wind down, with restless sleep or insomnia at night and adrenaline keeping us going during the day masking the underlying fatigue. Perhaps we feel sluggish or our digestion is off a little. Normally, people can recover from these problems pretty quickly. However, if you find that these problems don’t seem to be getting any better, you should consider looking for alternative coping mechanisms.
To reduce holiday stress and anxiety try some of these tips:
Practice self-compassion. You don’t have to be perfect. Things are not perfect; that’s impossible. This can apply to all aspects of the holidays, whether it’s chatting with people at an office party or holiday gift exchanges. Recognize that no one expects perfection from you and simply enjoy the moment. Smile and chat with your co-worker instead of worrying if you’re saying the right thing. Put up your favorite decorations and don’t worry if they aren’t perfect.
Recognize it’s acceptable to say no. We can overbook around the holidays. Spend some time with your calendar before the holiday season kicks into full gear and establish a game plan for your schedule. Taking the time to plan and setting some realistic goals, will help make the holidays more enjoyable and a bit less stressful.
Embrace differences. Or at least practice accepting them. Holidays can sometimes mean dysfunctional family time. Realizing you can only control your own thoughts and actions and that you can’t change others is the first step toward getting through those moments. You have to step away from that emotional center and almost analytically observe things like you’re watching a parade or a movie. The second step is realizing your own worth and that accepting others doesn’t open the door for them to abuse you. If necessary, set boundaries on what you will or won’t tolerate from relatives. If things become tense, have a plan — maybe it’s excusing yourself and going for a walk, stepping away to wash your face, deep breathing or, if necessary, leaving early.
Allow some time for you. With a busy holiday schedule, it can be easy to let taking care of yourself take a back seat. But, time to relax can be the best gift you give yourself to get through the holiday season with less stress. Getting enough rest, staying hydrated, exercising and eating healthy foods can help give you the energy you need for shopping trips, holiday parties or traveling and help keep stress at bay. Practicing gratitude also can help put you in a better mindset during the holidays.
Reach out. This works both ways, whether you are the one dealing with depression or anxiety or if you notice someone who is. If you’re struggling, it’s okay to let people know you need help. On the flip side, if you notice a friend or family member struggling, don’t hesitate talk to them about it.
Get some acupuncture. Acupuncture can help us feel more balanced at times when we may be experiencing highs and lows by calming the nervous system and releasing our own endogenous opioids, helping us to experience a feeling of well-being and calm.
Our activities and our emotions are intertwined and using these different methods can greatly improve the joy you experience during the holiday season..