The fall and winter holidays are upon us—and all the shopping, get-togethers with friends and family, and upset to our normal routines can be enough to bump our stress levels into the stratosphere as we make our way through the season. Maintaining year-round healthy habits and avoiding the temptations of overindulgence can give your body and your spirit that all-important boost necessary for you to power through the holidays at home and at the office.
It’s OK to indulge here and there, and it’s naïve to think you won’t when temptations literally abound around every corner and on every table top. But don’t throw out the meal plan that’s worked so well for you the other 11 months of the year just because the winter holidays arrive. Not all snacks need to be high in sugar, carbs, or calories. If you’re making goodies, make some healthy choices as well. Sure, the candies will go fastest and the sugary cocktails will go down the easiest, but you and the health-conscious among you will appreciate the lack of sugar- and alcohol-fueled hangovers that can often leave you feeling dungy (and stressed) the day after.
The ability to stay active outdoors varies greatly depending on where you live. For those of us in southern California, it’s sometimes tough to mark the change of seasons, compared to our northern counterparts who can become virtual shut-ins once the cold temps and winter snows set in. But the seasons do change, even for us, and this time of year that usually means the arrival of winter-onset seasonal affective disorder (or the “winter blues”), which is caused in part by reduced levels of sunlight, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Maintaining a healthy dose of outdoor activity though, no matter where you live, is vital. For us in the south, maybe all we need to enjoy a day at the beach in December is a light jacket or sweater. For northerners, so long as the weather isn’t too bad or icy, maybe all that’s needed is a good jacket and hat and mittens to make an invigorating walk possible even on the coldest of days.
GET PLENTY OF SLEEP.
You parents have been telling you since you were a toddler that a good night’s sleep is critical to a sound body. It can also help lower your stress levels, improve your mood, and make you an overall more productive person and more pleasant to be around. According to WebMD, when you’re tired, “you are less patient and more easily agitated, which can increase stress. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night.”
SMILE AND HAVE FUN.
Nobody likes a humbug, especially over the holidays. The simple act of smiling reduces your body’s stress responses, even when you don’t feel particularly happy. Smiling also helps lower heart rates faster once a stressful situation ends. At Barrel O'Monkeyz, fun is an important part of how we do business, whether it’s over the holidays or all year-round. Having fun lightens the mood, engages your team, and boosts productivity—and just because you’re having fun, it doesn’t mean you’re not serious about results. So give yourself permission to goof around, have a happy hour, go out bowling, or do something fun as a team. Your family, friends, employees, and clients will thank you!
Parents and employers might find those ever-present earbuds stressful in and of themselves, but multiple studies don’t lie: music can help keep you calm, and happy employees are 12% more productive at work! A recent study in the UK revealed which tunes can reduce stress and anxiety the most. As participants tried to solve difficult puzzles, they listened to different songs while researchers measured brain activity as well as physiological states that included heart rate, blood pressure, and rate of breathing. The top song that produced a greater state of relaxation than any other music was "Weightless" by Marconi Union. Other top songs included "Someone Like You" by Adele, "Strawberry Swing" by Coldplay, and "Watermark" by Enya.
STICK TO YOUR ROUTINES.
It’s easy to slip out of routines around the holidays. You’ve got shopping to do, parties to go to, special events to attend, and all sorts of treats and other indulgences to distract you. While varying your routine can be good at times, totally throwing your regular schedule out the window whenever the holidays roll around can drive stress levels up significantly. Most people are creatures of habit. Eliminate the rote parts of our lives, and we start to stress over what comes next. So, if holiday hustle and bustle are making it tough for you to remember all your to-dos and must-dos at home or work, make a list—even check it twice if you have to. Better yet, make a daily or weekly plan to cover all the bases that you might otherwise lose track of.
Sometimes you just gotta laugh!
The Holidays are a time of great joy and togetherness. They can also be a great source of stress and anxiety. But they don’t have to be if we are mindful of what causes us stress and ways we can moderate the effects of stress in our lives, both personally and professionally.
What tips do you have for others? What has worked the best for you?
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Paul June is King Monkey of BARREL O'MONKEYZ, a San Diego-based strategic marketing agency specializing in Sports and Active Lifestyle markets. We serve as a seasoned, outsourced marketing team for companies looking to ramp up sales and launch new products. Our barrel is full of talent and creative arms ready to prove we don’t just monkey around!