6 Ways to Beat the Holiday Stress and Blues

  1. Work on your Negativity Bias.

Sure, there’s a lot going wrong in the world right now and with the changing political climate and the slew of natural disasters, it’s easy to think like Chicken Little. But if you take a step back, you’ll realize the sky is not actually falling and there’s a lot going right with the world. Positivity/Negativity bias is a muscle that can be worked. In fact, a growing body of evidence from Dr. Carol Dweck shows that by believing your brain can change for the better through work (termed a Growth Mindset), you’ll set your brain up for the development of new and better neural pathways. So this holiday, keep telling your brain that if you think positively and focus on what’s right with the world, you’ll maximize your brain’s potential for a higher positivity bias.

2. Get Enough Sleep.

With the many holiday parties, the winter solstice/shifting daylight hours, and for some, the need to be Santa into the wee hours of the morning, sleep can be tough to come by. Less sleep will NOT allow you to do more, contrary to popular propaganda from productivity gurus and self-described peak performers…it will just make you, well…tired. And cranky. And less able to focus. Add to that, your body’s tendency to produce more melatonin in the winter months, and you just might find yourself downright sleepy. Aim to get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night and your brain will thank you. Plus, you’ll feel more equipped to take on the demands of the season. And if you’re faithfully logging your full hours each night and still feeling sleepy, breathing exercises and meditation can help your body get more restful sleep.

3. Eat a Well-balanced Diet.

With all the egg-nog, pumpkin pie and holiday sweets, it’s easy to go overboard and not make the healthiest food choices during the holidays. And, don’t even think about cruising past the festive party spread on an empty stomach. Eating a balanced meal with the proper amounts of fruits/veggies and protein will help you sustain your energy through the busy days and give your immune system a boost at the same time. If you’re like 52% of Americans, you might believe that doing taxes is easier than determining how to consume a healthy diet. But putting your health first should be at the top of your priority list. Some delicious and nutrient-packed seasonal favorites at this time of year include pomegranates, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash.

4. Manage Stressful Situations.

Stress is unavoidable during the holidays due to travel, various demands, family dynamics and pressure to make everything perfect. On top of that, most workers are cramming in last minute to-dos, then feeling pressured to check into work while away on their holiday (on account of the 24/7 availability of wifi and email everywhere we go). A good tip is to shop or travel during off-peak hours if you can. Give yourself permission to have a “good enough” holiday dinner or host the “almost perfect” gathering. Say no to one or more parties that just might be too much on your schedule. You’ll enjoy yourself more and relieve yourself of the stress and pressure. If you still find yourself in an acutely stressful situation, a few minutes of Mindfulness Meditation or calming breathing exercises can transfer your nervous system from the “fight-or-flight” stage to a more calm, parasympathetic mode.

5. Seek Social Comfort for Loneliness and Grief.

While the holidays are a time for joy and family togetherness for many, for others they can trigger feelings of loneliness or grief if, for example, it reminds them that a departed loved one can no longer be with them. It’s important, particularly at the holidays, to seek out friendships and social interaction in order to avoid feelings of isolation, loneliness and grief. And no, social media doesn’t count. For a full look at ways to combat loneliness, review our September blog post.

6. Don’t Forget Your Vitamin D.

Last but not least, don’t forget to get a little bit of sunlight and/or take your Vitamin D supplement. With the shorter days and fewer hours of sunlight, many can become Vitamin D deficient around the holidays and begin to feel not only fatigued, but also symptoms of mild depression (referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SADS). In fact, the latest studies show that only 23% of adults have the recommended Vitamin D levels of 30 ng/mL or greater. Those that live in northern climates, have darker skin or spend a lot of time indoors are particularly susceptible to deficiency.

We wish you a stress-free and blues-free holiday and hope you experience positivity, brain health and compassion in 2018!

By: Natalie Cann, Head of Marketing

Disclaimer: The opinions above are of the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Brain Resource Limited. The post, while scientifically validated by our Chief Science Officer, is for information only and is not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship or advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one’s own healthcare professionals.