Good habits are an important part of a successful life. Especially if they become your default setting. Things that you genuinely feel bad about not doing. Deeply ingrained good habits are like positive addictions. They will help get you through the most stressful times in your life and the holidays can be a very stressful time.
This holiday season comes with even more stresses and strains than usual. Many things that stress you these holidays you’ll have very little control over. Developing and maintaining good stress-reducing habits will not only help you to enjoy the holidays but they’ll also set you up very well for whatever 2021 has in store.
1. Thought Control
An unruly mind, full of negative and pessimistic thoughts causes a lot of stress. Taking control of your mind is a stress-reducing habit that really works. To manage your thoughts, especially in a situation where you know that your needs aren’t being met, takes practice. But it’s extremely beneficial and well worth the effort.
Only allow thoughts that serve you. When thoughts that undermine you or won’t lead to happy holidays pop-up, replace them authentically with better ones. It’s fine to feel disappointed because you can’t be with loved ones. Or because you don’t have enough money to give your children everything they want. But balance that out with thoughts of gratitude for what you do have. Think creatively about how you can make the holidays a wonderful time. Your thoughts directly impact the way you feel. Better thoughts lead directly to feeling better and having better experiences.
2. Moderate Exercise
Moderate exercise turns on endorphins. Endorphins are your body’s natural defense against stress. Do some form of exercise you enjoy, where you enjoy doing it. For some people that will be walking in nature. For others, it will be doing a gym session or even a yoga session at home. Any form of gentle to moderate exercise works to reduce stress. Do it every day if you can. Exchanging your usual exercise for a pleasurable physical activity like gardening or playing energetically with the kids now and then, works well too.
3. Get enough Sleep
Sleep is so important in keeping stress levels down and yet it’s often one of the first things to elude you when you’re stressed. When you’re under pressure with too much to fit into each day it’s tempting to reduce your sleep hours. Having more waking hours each day won’t make you more productive if you’re sleepy and stressed. It will also make what you’re doing unsustainable and unpleasurable.
Good sleep hygiene habits are a must.
– Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool.
– Keep regular sleep hours.
– Stop working intensely at least an hour before you try to sleep.
– Don’t drink coffee or energy drinks late into the day.
– Watch your alcohol intake. Alcohol might send you off to sleep but it won’t give you a good sleep and it can leave you feeling hungover the next day.
If you’re still having trouble sleeping, practice relaxing your body, quietening your mind, and focusing on your breathing. If you have problems or a to-do list going around and around in your mind get up and write it all down.
Recognize when things are getting on top of you and break the stress cycle. Think of your stress levels like the heat that builds up in a pot on the stove. Ideally, you’d turn down the heat but when that isn’t possible you can take the lid off to keep everything from boiling over.
You can redirect yourself by doing something relaxing and enjoyable. Whatever you choose to do take your thoughts with you. There’s no point in spending an hour in the garden if your thoughts are still on how you’re going to find a job.
You can also redirect yourself by doing something that needs to get done but is easy and low stress.
5. Keep up your Dopamine Levels
Dopamine is your happiness hormone. Sleep, exercise, and doing enjoyable things increase dopamine levels but there are other things you can do to give yourself a hit of dopamine.
– Cuddles … and they don’t have to be with people, animals will do.
– Eat enough protein. Keep your diet as balanced and as enjoyable as possible.
– Listen to your favorite music.
– Meditate … and you can meditate while you walk.
– Get enough sunlight, it really does make a difference
– Keep your lifestyle as balanced as possible.
You hopefully already have a number of these stress-reducing habits in your life. If you do hold onto them tightly. Don’t be tempted to let them go in because it’s the holidays or because you don’t “feel” like it.
When you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed it’s easy to let things go, thinking that will help you feel better, but the opposite is true. While there can be a little initial relief by giving your morning work-out a miss, you’ll get more long-term benefits by pushing through and doing it.
By making these habits the non-negotiables of your lifestyle you’ll be able to handle more stress when you need to. Good stress-reducing habits will make it possible for you to operate better in high-stress environments.
Everyone goes through periods of high stress at some point in their life. Good stress-reducing habits will help you through these periods, but you should always look at the bigger picture. Why are you under so much pressure? Are you on a learning curve, dealing with something new, or managing something out of the ordinary? Under these circumstances, the period of overstress will be limited. You’ll eventually get back to less stress.
If you’re stressed over something that’s a long-term part of your life and is likely to always be there, you need to start addressing the underlying causes. A great place to start with that is by downloading our Needs Profile Questionnaire in the sidebar.
To everyone who is reading this post we wish you the happiest holidays you can create. It can be a stressful time of year but it’s also a beautiful and special time of year that can be rewarding and rejuvenating if we let it.
Deb and Jeff