Health & Fitness

10 tips on avoiding holiday stress

Getty Image by: Getty Author: Elle Canada

Health & Fitness

10 tips on avoiding holiday stress

Holiday dream: You spend Christmas Eve drinking hot cocoa and playing Scrabble in front of the fireplace with your family while wearing matching sweaters.

Holiday reality: You spend Christmas Eve in a fight with your sister while your mom alienates your new boyfriend and you hurriedly wrap up a candle for your dad because you forgot to buy him a present.

Welcome to the most wonderful time of the year. “Generally, the holiday season is a time of joy and family gatherings and celebrations,” says Dr. Katy Kamkar, a psychologist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. “But it can also be a stressful time because of the variety of demands we have. The number of social obligations, family, friends and holiday parties; sometimes we might feel overwhelmed and exhausted.”

READ MORE: The value of a pre-holiday detox

Also causing that tight feeling in your chest:

Financial stress: Is anyone else panicking about how much they’ve spent on presents so far?

Travel: Whether it’s weather delays, fear of flying or simply driving to three different houses for dinners in one day, travel can be a moodkiller during the holidays.

Family: Then there’s the general Christmas melancholy you can feel you’ve lost a loved one or are mourning a past relationship.

The result? Stress overload. We got the experts to spill on how to feel better.

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Expert tips on avoiding holiday stress

How to survive the holidays: Recognize the signs of stress

Moodiness and irritability. Difficulty concentrating and sleeping. Muscle tension. Being negative. And generally feeling overwhelmed. Do any of these apply to you? These are warning signs that you’re mentally taxed, according to Dr. Katy Kamkar, psychologist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.   READ MORE: The value of a pre-holiday detox

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Carli Whitwell Source: Getty

Expert tips on avoiding holiday stress

How to survive the holidays: Watch what you eat

“Just the way putting gas in the tank of your car impacts how well the engine turns over, what we eat impacts brain functioning,” says Laurel Mellin, the author of Spiral Up: Discover the Power of Simple Toools Can Relieve Stress and Feel Good Now. “In general, healthy fats and protein boost mood.” Start the day with nutrient-dense and protein-rich foods such as chicken sausages, eggs or vegetables. Stick with veggies and protein throughout the day to prevent binging. Kamkar also recommends limiting alcohol consumptions and sweets, which can wreak havoc on moods.   READ MORE: 9 facts and fictions about cold and flu season you need to know now

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Carli Whitwell Source: Getty

Expert tips on avoiding holiday stress

How to survive the holidays: Be prepared

Indulge your inner girl scout and plan ahead. Prioritize what you need to do and then schedule meals, shopping and yes, even social time. “When we plan everything it gives us a sense of control and it’s one of the powerful ways to reduce the stress because we are able to set priorities and we are able to engage [be present] in activities we scheduled,” says Kamkar. Word of warning: you might not be able to get to every event. Be OK with it.   READ MORE: 8 Instagram accounts that inspire us to eat better

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Carli Whitwell Source: Getty

Expert tips on avoiding holiday stress

How to survive the holidays: Take a time out

Feeling panicked because your aunt is picking on you about your single status? Instead of saying something you regret, leave the room for a quick time out. “It could be taking a few minutes engaging in slow breathing to refocus. Then you go back to the situation with better control of your emotions and be able to think a bit more clearly to respond in a more appropriate way,” says Kamkar. READ MORE: Must-have health and fitness gifts for the sporty person in your crew

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Carli Whitwell Source: Getty

Expert tips on avoiding holiday stress

How to survive the holidays Be nice to yourself

We have five levels of stress or “brain states,” according to Mellin. "1" is feeling great and "5" is stressed out.) If you’re at 5, have compassion for yourself. “Do not judge. Minimize harm. Know it will pass.” That will calm us down, she says.   READ MORE: Fat water is now a thing

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Carli Whitwell Source: Getty

Expert tips on avoiding holiday stress

How to survive the holidays: Write down how you feel

Mellin recommends writing one sentence for each negative feeling you have. For example, I feel angry that; I feel sad that; I feel afraid that; I feel guilty that. Follow by writing four more sentences: I feel grateful that; I feel happy that; I feel secure that; I feel proud that. This will help the flow of positive emotions.   READ MORE: 9 athleisure lines that will make you embrace the trend

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Carli Whitwell Source: Getty

Expert tips on avoiding holiday stress

How to survive the holidays: Schedule time to exercise

We know, we know: you’re baking for your annual cookie exchange, meeting the girls for drinks and looking for the perfect gift for your mom. You’re busy. But schedule in exercise time and it will make you feel better. “It increases a chemical that promotes the development of new brain cells and it can have a beneficial impact on decreasing stress,” says Mellin.   READ MORE: 6 steps to finding the perfect sports bra

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Carli Whitwell Source: Getty

Expert tips on avoiding holiday stress

How to survive the holidays: But don't over-exercise

“Exercise is best in moderation because over-exercise can promote overeating. Also, it can feel so good that it is addictive…Many [people] many become dependent on exercise and go into a low mood if they miss their ‘dose,’” says Mellin. She also notes that too much time at the gym can eat into quality family time. “What the brain most wants over the holidays (and at all times) is for us to be emotionally connected to ourselves, so that we can be emotionally connected with others.”   READ MORE: 5 Canadian yoga retreats to try now

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Carli Whitwell Source: Getty

Expert tips on avoiding holiday stress

How to survive the holidays: Don't overspend

Easier said than done, we know. Draw up a budget of what you can actually afford and stick to it – even if your brother gives your parents a flat-screen TV when you can only splash out for a Blu-ray.   READ MORE: Another reason to quit drinking diet pop right now

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Carli Whitwell Source: Getty

Expert tips on avoiding holiday stress

How to survive the holidays: Perfect doesn't equal the best

“Things don’t have to be perfect to be good,” says Kamkar. In other words, if your turkey comes out like Clark Griswold’s in Christmas Vacation, let it go.   READ MORE: Wear this colour to feel more confident

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Carli Whitwell Source: Getty

READ MORE:

9 facts and fictons about cold and flu season you need to know
8 Instagram accounts that inspire us to eat better
12 immune-boosting superfoods you need to add to your diet this winter

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Health & Fitness

10 tips on avoiding holiday stress