“Did I just accidentally wrap my earrings into that package for my brother?”

It’s hard to deny that this time of year can be stressful. Yes, it’s wonderful, with the fun gatherings and merriness and all that, but sometimes it’s all a bit much. Buying presents, having holiday treats, and running around to visit friends and relatives can make it feel pretty hectic. And the stores are overrun with people racing around to try to buy the hottest holiday gift. You could curl up in a ball on your couch and wait for the season to pass (you’re thinking about it, aren’t you?), or you can get smart about how you spend your time while the calendar is showing December.

Stress Is Inevitable

Some people claim that they’re not under any stress and that they’re managing just fine. Yup, there are some people who take vacations at this time of year or find themselves with a lighter workload as the holidays approach. If that’s you, great. Hit the gym every day, plan your meals so you get in plenty of protein and vegetables, and get set to rocket launch that lean bod into 2018!

For the rest of us, we need to find some strategies that will get us through the holidays without turning into nervous wrecks.

Find Ways to Deal With the Stress

Managing stress in a positive way (No, alcohol and binge-watching “Game of Thrones” DOES NOT count) is really important because being overwhelmed affects the decisions you make every day. You’re more likely to eat a lot of food, particularly sweet and fatty comfort food, when you’re under stress. And we know there’s going to be a lot more of that kind of food around at this time of year!

Here Are A Few Useful Ways Of Coping With Holiday Stress:

Keep It Simple

The holidays should be about spending quality time with friends and family, not an excuse to have fits whenever things don’t go exactly the way you want them to.

You don’t need to buy all the gifts that your kids want, especially if trying to obtaining those toys is time-consuming and expensive (I’m looking at you, Hatchimal).

Most kids will appreciate having parents who are relaxed and more accepting of their faults at this time of year.

Try to spend a limited time in the stores at this time of year. Even if you’re feeling relaxed and singing carols under your breath, many people passing you will likely be feeling a bit tense and will only get annoyed by your slow feet and zen-like calm. Although online shopping also has it’s pitfalls (late deliveries and wrong sizes), it’s generally a lot more relaxed than venturing into the world to fight over the last red cashmere scarf.

Make Sleep A Priority

Get as much sleep as you can. Late parties and varying schedules can leave you short on sleep. Grab naps when you can, and think about skipping a non-essential party or two so that you can have an earlier night. Yes, you want to be social and enjoy yourself, but if you’re stretched too thin it’s going to show.

Getting enough sleep is also important to keep your immune system performing well, which is essential during cold/flu season. There’s so much going around at this time of year and getting your sleep provides the first line of defence. It also helps you recover if you do manage to catch something nasty.

Meditate To Help You SLOW DOWN

If you don’t already practice meditation, now might be a good time to incorporate it into your routine. I’ve written a blog post HERE that describes an easy 5-minute meditation you can do if you start to feel a bit frazzled. You need to take care of yourself first or you won’t be much fun when you’re spending time with other people anyway.

Even 5 minutes of calm breathing when things are getting overwhelming can be a big help. You don’t have to call it meditation if the term freaks you out. Deep breathing or focussed attention (mindfulness) for a short period of time will reduce your blood pressure and make it easier to deal with the next holiday challenge that comes your way.

Don’t Forget Exercise!

Exercise is another great way to deal with stress so getting your workouts in has extra benefit over the festive season. Not only do you build muscle and help yourself stay lean, but you’ll reduce your stress levels and be more likely to make better food choices. Sounds like a win-win.

Your weight training workout is the key, but keeping yourself moving (and not behind a desk all day long) will help too. Get up as much as you can…and not just to grab more holiday cookies or Lindor truffles from a co-workers’ desk!

If you’re looking for specific guidelines about working out during the holidays, I wrote an entire blog post about it HERE.

On weekends, try to spend time outdoors and do some physical activity. I’m not a huge fan of winter myself, so if you’re living in a cold climate it can be hard to push yourself outdoors to do some walking, skating, or skiing. Bundle up and get out there and enjoy the joys of the season. For those of you in warmer climates, go swimming, surfing hiking, cycling, or rollerblading. And know that I am jealous of the milder temperatures you get to experience at this time of year.

Remind Yourself That It Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect

Having impossible standards for gift-giving, decorating, and serving food, takes all the fun out of the holidays. Enjoy the process, laugh at any silly mistakes that happen (so that Hatchimal isn’t arriving until January?!), and remember that the holidays are about YOU enjoying  yourself too. We all have that one relative who’s always obsessed with making everything perfect at this time of year.

My favourite example is Clark Griswold from the classic film, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”, that I’ve watched every year since I was a kid (Yes, it’s a classic. Don’t argue with me on this one.) Clark’s wife Ellen points out, “You set standards that no family event can live up to.” And most of us remember how things turned out for Clark:

So chill out already! You’ll be happier…and so will your loved ones.

Get Support From Other People

In my online coaching group, Lean365, we talk a lot about the challenges of the holidays and help each other find solutions. Having people to support you through these times can make a difference to how successful you are at managing a balanced lifestyle. On-going support through challenging times can be the key to keeping you consistent. So make sure you have someone (or a few people) around you to help you stick to your healthy lifestyle of working out and eating well when the roadblocks increase.

You Can Do This!

Acknowledge your holiday stress, do what you can to manage it, and remember that it will all be over soon.

Ivana Chapman

P.S. Want help putting a practical nutrition and workout plan together? My Lean365 Online Membership Program can help! Check out the details HERE.