The holiday season is coming up, a time of joyous occasions yet a heavy addition of stress on our minds and body. Stress could precipitate from having to spend more money than we want to, or we may have to spend more time with people than we care to in the spirit of celebration, or sacrifice some of our normal routines to accommodate others or a plethora of other reasons.
But what is stress? Simply, it’s a feeling of being overwhelmed, under pressure, or unable to cope. Some stress is good for us, pushing us to accomplish tasks that we may perceive as insurmountable at the time. Yet when the accumulation of stress continuously affects our mental health and relationships, it might be time to take some action to lower stress levels.
How to reduce stress?
There are many ways to combat stress. Here are some tools you can use to manage or eliminate stress.
Sometimes stress can come from unknown sources because they’re new or we are so overwhelmed we fail to identify specific stressors. Relief could be as simple as taking the time to recognize what is causing us stress. However, sometimes we know exactly what the stressor is. In that case, maybe acknowledging the stressor exactly for what it is can help us come to terms with it. Try identifying it by writing it out or saying it out loud. Also, try sharing with your spouse, family, or friend what is stressing you; that alone could help manage that stressor.
Prioritize and Execute
Stress comes from feeling overwhelmed – we just have too much to do all at once, causing us to feel bombarded, stuck, and hopeless, resulting in little to nothing getting accomplished. Instead, try prioritizing your tasks. First, make a list of your tasks. Second, determine which item is most important because of time sensitivity or necessity of succession, and put that first on your list. Once your list is complete, execute the item on your list first, and focus on nothing but that. With that being said, that first item could be a huge undertaking and is overwhelming in itself. Two options here: first, make a separate priority list just on this one item; second, try knocking out a simple task lower on your list just to build some momentum of accomplishment.
You know Huts for Vets is all about getting outside for some shinrin-yoku, the Japanese word for “forest bathing.” Prioritize some time out of your busy holiday schedule to get out in nature, whether it’s a hike, walk, or stroll in the park. If the weather is awful, find a way to productively detach from your stressful situation. Perhaps you take five minutes for yourself in the garage, take a drive, call a friend or family member, or revisit some photos of vacations. Just a five-minute break in a different scenery can prove beneficial for relieving some stress.
Get your blood pumping, heart rate, and respiratory rate elevated, and get sweaty through some physical activity. Exercise releases endorphins, a chemical our body releases to relieve pain and stress. This is your body’s physiological mechanism to deal with stress; how cool is that? So, let’s use it. Take some time, anywhere from 5-60 minutes and do a workout – whether it’s at the gym, at home, or out around your neighborhood.
Most people have tried meditating, and most feel like they failed. If you’re one of those people, don’t give up! Most people have trouble meditating at first – it’s difficult, but so are most new endeavors we go on. Meditation takes practice, and it’s okay not to be good at it. Mediation is like a muscle that needs repetitions in order to grow, but for your mind. Good news: meditation comes in many forms and there is no one method that works for everyone. Just taking a few minutes to focus on your breathing, listening to peaceful sounds, writing, or going for a walk counts as meditation. There are many resources for different types of meditation, like youtube and apps. Check them out.
Rest and Sleep
The holiday season usually packs on more tasks and responsibilities, and sleep/rest are the first time-sensitive activities to be cut. Yet stress is only amplified if we cause it to interrupt our sleep and rest. Prioritizing 7-9 hours of sleep is crucial as our body takes that time during sleep to repair and reset our body and mind. Getting that good night of sleep will allow you to be more focused and effective when you have the time to execute that task list; poor sleep or lack of sleep will hinder your ability to be effective.
Ask for Help
Despite what you tell yourself, it’s always okay to ask for help. Some tasks aren’t meant to be taken on alone. Ask your spouse, family member, or friend if they can help you with sharing the load. Sometimes, the tasks are easy enough, but you have too many. Ask for help. Maybe you don’t know how to accomplish a task or deal with a stressor – ask for help. If you had a family member or friend who asked for your help, you would love to help them. Moreover, there’s a good chance they would love to help you.
Stress happens. Don’t allow yourself to be overrun with holiday stressors to the point where the celebrations aren’t worth it. Use the tools above to manage or eliminate stress. Identify them, prioritize them, get outside and get moving, calm your mind, get some rest, and don’t hesitate to ask for help. Most importantly, have a great holiday season!