5 Ways to Gift Yourself a Happier (and Healthier) Holiday Season
For as much fun as the holiday season can be — with all the gifts, gatherings, and gustatory delights — it’s often regarded as one of the most challenging.
A 2019 survey found that 88% of people in the U.S. find the holidays to be the most stressful time of the year, and there’s a cornucopia of reasons why. Financial concerns, time constraints, familial anxiety, travel demands, and overarching pressure to ensure that everything is “perfect” — or any combination thereof — can quickly compound and leave someone feeling as though the so-called joy of the holiday season is little more than a facade.
Fortunately, there are strategies you can implement to help keep yourself happy, healthy, and thriving this holiday season (and beyond).
Step 1: Have a plan
“One of the best ways to make ourselves happier and reduce stress during the holiday season is to have a plan,” says Natasha Funderburk, a certified nutritionist and wellness expert. “We know it’s going to be chaotic. We know we’re going to have a million things on our to-do list, and we know that (for many of us), we’re going to let our health — and putting ourselves first as a priority — slip.”
Funderburk recommends setting aside time for yourself each day as a way to stay in control of your stress levels. And that means actually scheduling time with intention, not just stealing an extra couple of minutes in the bathroom or taking the long way home after running errands.
“I like to set aside about 10 minutes every morning just to breathe,” she says. “No phone, no social media, no kids coming in needing things (if I can help it!). I just sit, quietly, with my cup of coffee or my lemon water, and I set my intentions for the day.”
Whether you use this time to write in a journal, meditate, stretch, or simply stare out the window is entirely up to you — the important thing is prioritizing time for yourself.
“When we feel more grounded and focused, we tend to feel less stressed and more productive and happy,” notes Funderburk.
Step 2: Embrace mindful indulgence
The festive season is often filled with sweet treats, plenty of beverages, and rich food — all of which are 100% okay to enjoy. It’s also fair to recognize that overindulgence can (and probably will) happen. Who among us hasn’t gotten caught up in the moment, enjoying ourselves among friends or family, happily accepting another pour of wine, a fourth cookie, or a late-night plate of leftovers?
Our digestive systems are often quick to let us know when we’ve, ahem, overburdened the facilities. Telltale signs include general discomfort, bloating, heartburn, and indigestion. Scientists have found a very real link between gut health and mental health, so it’s no wonder that few things can bring down the holiday mood as quickly as digestive discomfort.
For quick, natural relief, try sipping a cup of hot peppermint tea — or popping two meltaway tablets of Boiron Acidil (no water needed). This homeopathic medicine can be taken on either a full or empty stomach, and its ingredients work naturally with the body to relieve those pesky, uncomfortable symptoms of indigestion, bloating, and heartburn.
Step 3: Don’t skip the exercise
Exercising is often one of the first things to fall to the wayside when we’re busy. When our to-do list is a mile long and we have three different places to be on any given day, going to the gym, taking a long walk, or unfurling the yoga mat for a Vinyasa flow session suddenly feels like a huge chore.
But exercise is one of the best things we can do to relieve stress, so it’s worth scheduling into your days as if it were any other important appointment.
“When you treat exercise like an appointment and it’s on your schedule, you are less likely to find an excuse to skip it,” says Funderburk. “Everything that you have to get done will still be there when you’re done — taking 30 minutes away from those to-do items will not hurt anything.”
Think about it: When’s the last time you actually regretted exercising? So do yourself the kindness of remembering those awesome post-workout feelings and — if nothing else — go for a nice walk.
Step 4: Find contentment in everyday routine
The very elements that make the holiday season so special are the same things that make it stressful. Feeling as though we’re stepping away from reality for a few weeks, wherein everything is lavishly decorated and deliciously appointed, can lead to a post-holiday emotional crash.
“Elevating the importance of our mundane and routine lives becomes especially poignant during the holidays when we are (mis)lead towards leaving our everyday behind,” says Jason Frishman, PsyD, who specializes in helping fathers and families. “We take out the good tablecloths and silverware, we make extravagant meals and rich desserts, and we seek extraordinary experiences.”
So, by the time the holidays are over, our everyday lives seem dull in comparison. Even those who aren’t especially stressed over family discourse or shopping for gifts can be challenged by the holiday season with an underlying feeling of dread for the inevitable return to normalcy.
Frishman says that the best way to combat this feeling is to find magic in the everyday.
“Much of our happiness, contentment, and meaningful moments are in the everyday. They are discovered in living and expressing our values in the smallest ways,” he explains.
Your everyday values can consist of anything from protecting quiet time for yourself to savoring thoughtful conversation with an elderly neighbor. Frishman says it’s about recognizing what is most important to you and being mindful to acknowledge those needs on a regular basis. This stop-and-smell-the-roses approach to daily life can help us remain centered during intense, unusual times.
“Find those values in your everyday, routine actions and I can assure you — you’ll feel happier and less stressed, even during the holidays.”
Step 5: Remember the journey
Holiday stress can be exacerbated by things we might not always expect. Time and money constraints may feel like obvious stressors, but, according to Frishman, there’s often more to it than that.
“There are numerous other contexts, relationships, and memories that can steal our happiness; especially during times when we are expected to be joyous, grateful, and merrily social,” he says. “The holidays are supposed to be like a vacation, and yet they can become a stretched, tense time, leaving some secretly wishing to go back to work.”
Frishman believes we can combat these stressful feelings — and, moreover, achieve feelings of contentment and purpose — by remembering that everything is a journey, and that “the journeys are actually the most important part.”
In other words, remind yourself that the best changes happen slowly and consistently. Whether you’re working on improving your health, strengthening relationships with loved ones, or achieving professional goals, know (and accept) that it’s going to take time.
Enjoy the season!
No matter how you choose to celebrate this season, doing so mindfully and intentionally is the key to staying happy, healthy, and stress-free. (And with Boiron Acidil, indigestion-free, too!)
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