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Tips for Handling Seasonal Stress

The holiday season is upon us again! While there is so much to enjoy this time of year, it is also a time of great stress. Between balancing budgets to fit gifts and travel in, or increased demands on the household as a host for family visits, or seeing an upswing in stress at work, the holidays can take a toll.

On top of money or time stress, for many of us, the holidays are a time of emotional stress. Family gatherings are not always a comforting place, or perhaps holidays bring up times of grief and loss. This can make tending to the needs of your household or work very challenging indeed.

I think we all can agree—having a way to deal with stress is integral to having an enjoyable holiday season.
I polled the employees of Willy Street Co-op and asked the question—“What do you do to relieve stress?” As a person who often struggles to answer that question for myself, I found my co-workers’ answers very helpful! Here’s a breakdown of their answers, along with some of my own suggestions.

Get Physical!
Many folks cited some form of exercise as their go-to stress reliever. Bicycling, working out, dancing, yoga, hiking, dog walking, outdoor activities generally, Jazzercise—get moving!

Personal Reflection
Making time for personal reflection was also high on the list for Co-op staff. Meditation, even just taking deep breaths, was cited as very helpful to several staff. One staff member suggested this visualization: “Just close your eyes and imagine seeing yourself. Then slowly zoom out, like in Google Maps. Zoom out so you see your whole body, then the room you are in, then the house/building, then the neighborhood, the town, city, landscape, state, country, world, AND KEEP ZOOMING OUT, slowly, imagining every detail. Eventually you’re in space, exiting this galaxy. It puts life into perspective.” Other suggestions include journaling, and staying away from social media or news sources.

Indulge in hobbies

  • Playing music, listening to music, baking and cooking, painting, playing video games, reading, martial arts, polishing rocks, organizing your CD collection—whatever you enjoy, make time for it.

  • Spending time with non-human animals. Be it companion animals, farm animals, or visiting a local shelter, animals can relieve stress in ways nothing else can.

  • Spending time with human animals.

  • Don’t neglect your relationships. Make sure you have regular “date nights” with close friends or family—you both will benefit. Nothing like a good friend to get you talking and laughing.

Sleeping and napping
Getting proper rest is essential. Create a bedtime ritual—make sure your bed doesn’t become the place where you do work on your tablet or the spot where you have big emotional talks with your partner.Make it a comfortable, relaxing oasis.

Massage, Acupuncture
Give yourself a gift this season. There are a ton of local folks who have these skills, and it can make a big difference. If you can’t afford it, be sure to put gift certificates at the top of your wish list.

Planning and organizing
Taking the time to plan your day or project is a great way to keep your cool. For example, when hosting a large meal, take the time to review your menu ahead of time—what can you make or prepare ahead of time? How many things need space in the oven and for how long? Do you have enough large bowls and serving spoons? Is the fridge ready to store a lot more food? Really think about each step and the timing of each step; write it out! If you are cooking with someone else, make sure to include them in the planning.

Starting your day with a clean space can be very helpful in reducing stress. If you know you tend to let things go when you are stressed out, create a cleaning schedule for yourself and your household, and stick to it! Keep each other accountable. Not the scheduling kind of person? Try setting a timer for 10, 15, or 20 minutes. Pick an area or task, and then tidy, scrub, and organize until the timer goes off. Do this everyday,and you’ll be amazed at how much work you can get done!

Eat healthy
It is really easy to let your dietary choices suffer during times of stress. Make eating good food a priority. Create a meal plan, even if it’s just five meals a week. Your meals don’t have to be fancy—try just to pick something simple, for example—a grain, protein and veggie. Something well-rounded that feels wholesome and sustaining to you. Dust off the crockpot and let it do the work for you.

Some staff members pointed to using essential oils as helpful in keeping them calm and well rested. Lavender oil is a classic for anxiety, lemon is used to uplift the mood, Roman Chamomile can be calming—there are a ton of resources out there and in the Co-op to help you find the essential oil that is right for you.

Many folks find vitamin D helpful this time of year. A lot of folks will try supplements to help them relax. Some of my favorites that have worked for me over the years are Chewable Suntheanine, Holy Basil or Lemonbalm tea, Five Flower Remedy, and 5-HTP. There are a lot of other options, so be sure to talk to your health practitioner about what is best for you.

Try a combination of these suggestions this season, and Happy Holidays!

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