5 Ways to Turn Holiday Stress Into A Chance for Growth and Insight

The holidays can throw us off balance. Our routines are interrupted, demands on our time and bank accounts multiply, and it seems we have little space for ourselves amidst the parties and wrapping paper. Holidays can bring us great joy and great stress, all at the same time.

To compound this surplus of activities, spending, food, etc., holidays can challenge us at a fundamental level too - raising deeper questions that we may not want to look at during the rest of the year and potentially piquing emotions about our family, our relationships, the state of our homes, our success in relation to others, you name it.

The thing about all of this is, it isn't necessarily a bad thing. If we are willing to recognize that the holidays bring certain stressers our way, then we can also be prepared to examine our reactions and even use this time to practice techniques to prevent and mitigate stress.

How might we go about that?

1. Practice Self-Awareness

Make sure you are checking in with yourself regularly. If you feel yourself approaching wide-eyed panic about all the things you have to do, a bout of anger towards a family member or sadness about recent life events, acknowledge those feelings. In the vein of one of my favorite Buddhist teachers, Thich Nhat Hanh, it is better to say "Hello, Anxiety" or "Hello, Sadness" than to close up and tell them to go away. If anything, recognizing those feelings reduces their power over you. And of course, if something brings you feelings of peace and joy, acknowledge that as well.

2. Do Things for Yourself

We are all extremely busy in general, and even more so during the holidays, but we will make time for the things that we prioritize. Taking care of yourself should be of utmost priority always, but especially during times of stress. You don't have to say yes to everything and everyone at this time of year. You are allowed to sleep and exercise. You are allowed to stay home. You are allowed to read, go for a walk or run, get a pedicure or a massage. These are necessary counterbalances for all the extroversion you are likely experiencing. If it seems impossible with your schedule or family demands, ask for help. Others will recognize and appreciate that you are carving out this time.

3. Give Thanks

What are you thankful for? When we stop and think of all the things we are grateful for, we remember the people and things that we love which are the ultimate reasons for celebrating at this time of year. Intentionally connecting with these ideas can reveal to us the truest meaning of the holidays.

4. Breathe, Meditate, Do Yoga, Sit Quietly

Do activities every day that you find centering. As Karin Otto (one of our yoga and meditation instructors at The Wellnest) teaches, these activities that calm the nervous system have widespread effects - easing stress and anxiety, promoting circulation and digestion, releasing physical tension and imbalances, and cultivating an environment for healing and wellbeing on every level. With all the gift-giving happening right now, consider it your gift to yourself.  

5.  Plan for January

If something was really difficult for you during the holidays or you came to a realization about your wellbeing, make plans to address it in January. Did you have a hard time eating in moderation? Do you suffer from stress more than just during the holidays? Do you need support dealing with a larger life event, like a loss or low self-esteem? There are healers and supporters in our midst, and being pro-active in shoring up our wellness and happiness is never a waste of time or money.

This year, try to treat the unusual demands of the holidays as a unique opportunity rather than merely a strain. They can provide us with a chance for great growth and insights, if we allow them.

Originally published as a guest post on the Katie K Active blog.