How to reduce stress over the holidays and feel your best

The holiday season is officially upon us and while it is a time of celebration, it can also be very disruptive to our normal regime. Exercise can quickly be swapped for time on the couch, a healthy meal for extra servings of dessert and sleep for parties. While all these things are wonderful and should be enjoyed, it’s also important to prioritise your health so you finish the holiday period feeling your best and ready for a new year. Below are some simple and effective ways to reduce stress over the holidays and feel your best.

Focus on regular movement

It’s easy to stop exercising over the holiday period. Too many long lunches, days are too hot, feel too tired or just don’t want to. Whatever the excuse I’m sure we’ve all come up with one in the past. But let this year be different. Regular movement is essential for maintaining a healthy weight, improving psychological outcomes and reducing stress.

Listen: Dr. Ron Ehrlich interviews Gemma Perry. Post continues after audio.

TIP: Make a morning walk part of your daily routine. It’s summer in Australia and that means hot days. So before the heat kicks in head out for a morning walk, it can be a quick 30mins or a long morning hike. If a walk is too difficult then spend 15mins practicing salute to the sun at home – personally I do this every morning and have found it essential to my daily routine and managing stress.

It’s all about balance with your food

Inevitably the holiday period brings with it some seriously delicious food and perhaps some indulgense. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of becoming stressed every time you eat. Guilt and stress can wreak havoc on our nervous system and consequently our ability to actually digest.

TIP: now more than ever remember the 80/20 rule. Make 80% of what you consume healthy and indulge in the other 20%. It’s all about planning ahead and controlling what you can. Consume good quality protein, healthy fats and lots of multicoloured vegetables. If attending a lunch offer to bring a salad full of a selection of vegetables with an olive oil and lemon dressing. That way you can fill half your plate with your salad and enjoy the other foods on offer. If attending an event with alcohol try and consume some activated nuts beforehand to ensure you don’t drink on an empty stomach. Enjoy the holiday period, don’t be stressed by food – just remember it’s all about balance.

Practice meditation

It’s very likely that throughout 2017 you’ve seen many articles pop up about the importance of meditation for your health. Research is consistently demonstrating the effect it us on improving health and reducing stress.

TIP: use the holiday season to stop talking and start doing. Set yourself a challenge to practice 10-20mins of meditation a day. Downloading an app such as Headspace can be useful in getting started. Once this becomes a habit it will reduce your stress far beyond the holiday period.

Listen: Dr. Ron Ehrlich interviews Tim Brown. Post continues after audio.

Technology free time

We spend so much time in front of screens in our day-to-day lives. Emails and calendars can become overwhelming. Additionally exposure to artificial light can impact melatonin production and contribute to problems with sleep. I explore this more here. Use the holiday period to have some screen free time.

TIP: Get outside! Go for a bushwalk, visit the beach or have lunch with friends. Fill your time with activities that don’t involve your computer, tv or tablet so the temptation isn’t even there.

The holiday period should be a time of rest and relaxation. Give yourself permission to have a break and enjoy yourself. In addition to the above make sure you spend time outdoors soaking up some vitamin D. Consume multicoloured fruits and vegetables to increase your antioxidant intake and reduce oxidative stress. Focus on getting good quality sleep and enough of it! Let go of unnecessary stress, of things you can’t control.

To really tackle stress in 2018 order your copy of A Life Less Stressed here