In an ideal world, the holiday season would be filled with feelings of belonging, gratitude, and celebration. The reality: Holiday anxiety is real. This is one of the most stressful times of the year. We’re out of our normal routines, we’re not investing as much in nutrition and relaxation, and despite our best efforts, we can often fall back into old family dynamics that leave us on edge.
The good news is that by focusing on activities that reinvigorate and nourish us, we can combat holiday anxiety. Keep reading for how to make this festive season feel a bit less frenzied.
1. Try a meditation challenge.
Meditation has been shown to increase resilience and life satisfaction. In fact, mindfulness researchers say that people who practice mindfulness are better able to cope with overwhelming and difficult thoughts and emotions without shutting down. Why not try a 30-day meditation challenge to increase your resilience over the holidays? Start on December 2nd and continue through New Years Eve. You can use apps like Headspace, Calm, or simply sit in silence with your eyes closed 10 or 20 minutes a day.
Read more: 5 Easy Ways to Add Mindfulness to Your Day
2. Relax before you eat.
Holiday anxiety and family meals can be a perfect storm for digestive issues. According to May Zhu, MBA, RDN, LDN and founder of Nutrition Happens, “in a stressed state, our nervous systems allow the body to go into ‘fight or flight’ mode, which slows down digestion.” If we’re racing around all day and then sit immediately down to eat, “we’re more likely to experience abdominal pain or GI discomfort,” she says. If this happens to you, “take a few deep breaths before eating and see if you notice a difference,” Zhu says.
3. Start your day with collagen.
Speaking of mealtimes, starting your day with something healthy is a great way to nourish your body and mind. And green smoothies don’t have to be bland or bitter, either. Try this refreshing Sunburst Smoothie, which features clementines, banana, almond milk and Youtheory® Collagen Powder to help support healthy skin, hair and nails. Or, if you’re looking to start your day with something hot and decadent, try this Healthy Pumpkin Spiced Latte recipe, which features collagen and fresh pumpkin puree. Collagen can help fight the effects of aging, refresh and strengthen skin, hair, and nails by boosting natural collagen production, and even supports healthy tendons and ligaments. In other words, starting your day with a collagen smoothie can help you take on the day with a youthful glow and a spring in your step!
4. Find a daily moment of tech-free solitude.
Finding a few minutes alone each day is critical for maintaining good mental health over the holidays. “Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism really inspired me to find more solitude and not feel guilty about it,” says Jessica Murnane, founder of One Part Plant, “Solitude is so important to give your brain the recharge it needs, especially if you’re around lots of friends and family!” She recommends fully committing, which means no phone, podcasts, or media of any kind. Murnane finds solitude by taking a 20-minute walk alone (with no phone!), or by “pretending to go to the bathroom when I don’t actually have to,” she continues. When it comes to holiday anxiety, you gotta do what you gotta do!
5. Balance holiday meals with easy, healthy dinners.
On the evenings when you’re not eating elaborate dinners with family or friends, it’s easy to resort to microwave meals, cereal, or other processed foods that don’t require prep time or clean up. But these lack nutritional value and can leave you feeling sluggish and cranky. Zhu recommends trying something simple, but healthy, like a sheet-pan supper, instead. “When I need to make dinner after a long day, this gets the job done with a balance of protein, fiber, and good fats — all with minimal dishes,” she says. Zhu recommends taking protein and adding a vegetable. (Here’s a chicken sausage and veggie sheet pan recipe to get you started.) “Toss it all in some avocado oil and seasonings and then roast them in the oven together,” she explains. In just 30-minutes or so, you’ll have a low-maintenance meal that leaves you feeling truly nourished.
6. Don’t force yourself to go home.
According to Gabi Conti, author of 20 Guys You Date in Your 20s and expert on all things resilience (in dating and in life!), this is not the year to force yourself to make the trek home. “Traveling is still scary — and if holidays with the fam always stress you out — try making new (safe) holiday traditions with your friends instead,” she says. With COVID-19 still a pressing issue, allowing yourself to do things a little differently this year is an act of self-care.
7. Make time for puzzle time.
If you do go home, don’t be surprised if for a few days with family, you run out of things to say. To combat this, try doing an activity that will allow you to spend time together but also have a distraction! This could be anything from tennis to cornhole to poker or Monopoly. You may be surprised by how relaxed this makes you feel. Murnane recommends a puzzle, which has become one of her favorite tools for calming her body and mind. “I like to start and end my day with some puzzle time (instead of looking at my phone). You can do them alone or it’s a great bonding project to do with someone you love,” she says. Murnane loves the brand Inner Piece. “I automatically feel more calm and focused doing one of their puzzles,” she continues.
With the tips above, you can take better care of yourself over the holidays and make this year a truly restorative holiday season. Just remember to pack your collagen powder (if you decide to go home), order a few games or puzzles, and make sure your daily schedule includes some much-needed solitude.