‘Tis the season to bathe in the spirit of joy, wonder, gratitude, togetherness, and – for many of us – massive doses of holiday stress. Too often, we harbor a pre-existing image of the perfect holiday season that’s impossible to live up to.
It seems like it’s hard to completely escape holiday stressors. What’s more, if you’re prone to stress during normal circumstances, the holidays can be particularly brutal.
Headspace reported on a recent Harvard study that found 62 percent of respondents described their stress levels as “very” or “somewhat” elevated during the holidays.
Why are we so stressed?
For some people a mile-long gift list can present financial stress that is hard to recover from. For others, stress is triggered by a steady stream of social obligations, travel, and holiday parties.
Regardless, there’s something about the manic pace of the holiday season that can make even the most laid-back person feel stressed out. Like any other stress, holiday stress can take a toll on your mental and physical well-being.
Your gut health is particularly sensitive to stress. Studies show that stress can cause your digestive function to slow down and struggle with breaking down foods – especially all those rich holiday treats!
Worse yet, stress has also been shown to trigger inflammatory issues, irritable bowel problems, GERD, ulcers, and overall discomfort. Head to The Impact of Stress on Digestion for more details.
What can help?
Reframe your expectations.
Remember, it's crucial to be realistic. Neda Gould, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at Johns Hopkins Mindfulness Program, says it’s important to accept imperfection. “As we gear up for the holidays, we often set the bar impossibly high for ourselves and then feel upset when our celebrations don’t live up to expectations,” Dr. Gould explains. “It’s OK if it’s not perfect. Imperfection is healthy and normal. For some of us, it might just take a little practice.”
Facing an onslaught of holiday commitments? It’s OK to say no to a few of them. Overcommitting can quickly lead to stress and exhaustion. Remember, quality matters more than quantity when it comes to holiday experiences. Choose the events that truly matter to you and your loved ones, and focus on making those moments special.
Set a budget.
Financial stress during the holidays is super common. The pressure to buy extravagant gifts and host elaborate parties can lead to overspending and debt. To avoid this, set a budget and stick to it. Remember, it’s the thought that counts, not the price tag. By sticking to a budget, you’ll not only reduce financial stress, but also set a positive example for others around you.
Maintain healthy habits.
Don’t let the holidays derail all of your healthy habits. Sure, it’s OK to indulge, but make time for self-care. A short workout each morning will help your decision-making throughout the day. Encourage your family to try snowshoeing or sledding to get in extra exercise. Eat healthy snacks like fresh fruit or vegetables throughout the season and fill up before a dinner party or celebration with tempting but unhealthy foods. And for crying out loud, remember to take a break now and then, too. A cozy holiday nap or a quiet reading session is perfectly acceptable and recommended! For more info on mindfulness techniques to help manage stress, read Why Meditation and Breathwork?
Whatever the season, managing stress is essential for well-being and gut health. Looking for additional gut health support? The Zenwise® customer service team can guide you in the right direction. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org or M-F from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST at (800) 940-1972.