By: Lauren Moore, MSW, LCSWA
December – the last month of the year and quite a hectic one. The holiday season is not only associated with joy and happiness, but also stress, depressive symptoms, and other mental health-related challenges. As we approach the holidays, it’s important to check in with yourself and plan for the upcoming stressors. At Queen City Counseling, we highlight the importance of regulating your body and emotions through various methods. If you’re not sure how to regulate yourself, try starting with these three categories: exercise, nutrition, and time management.
Common signs of stress include tension in the body, fatigue, headaches, and mood dysregulation. Adding some movement in each day will help manage those symptoms and regulate your body in order to take on the extra stress in December. Exercise produces endorphins which in turn help regulate the quality of your sleep and your mood (ADAA, 2020). If you do not currently have an exercise routine, consult with your doctor and try starting out with small goals that you can increase over time such as walking for 30 minutes, stretching every morning, or some beginner’s yoga on YouTube is a good place to start. Keep in mind that it takes multiple weeks to form a habit. It may be helpful to have an accountability partner who encourages you to keep working towards your exercise goals. Don’t forget to take some deep breaths along the way!
Fueling your body to effectively combat stress is another significant tool to utilize as you navigate the holiday season. In order to properly meet your unique needs, consult with a doctor or nutritionist/dietician for specific guidelines. Focus on what you can add to your diet such as vegetables, fruits and/or protein, and then plan out your meals for the week ahead. Check this site out for more information surrounding food and nutrition.
Water is an important aspect of nutrition as well. Plain drinking water contributes to your hydration, which ultimately regulates your body and mood. Water should be incorporated into your daily routine. Work on carrying a bottle of water with you and set realistic goals for your water intake in order to stay hydrated! Water may also be used as a coping skill for stress. Try taking a sip of cold water and notice as it travels down your throat. Pay attention to the sensations you feel and practice a few deep breaths as you notice them. You can also try to use a towel soaked in cold water and gently press it against your face. Notice the sensations again and take some mindful breaths.
Time management incorporates goal setting, prioritizing, planning, and being realistic about your expectations. One way to increase your time management skills is by creating a to-do list and utilizing a planner or journal to set out weekly goals in regard to your list. As you set your goals and plan for the holiday season, don’t forget to build in extra time as needed if any stressors come up along the way. Prioritize what is most important to you this holiday season and don’t be afraid to create boundaries around your time.
Last but not least, plan for some self-care. Setting goals and planning is a great way to manage stress but it’s also essential to let yourself have some moments of intentional relaxation. Whether that’s calling a friend, going to therapy, reading, journaling, walking, or something else you find fulfilling, block off time in your schedule so you can take care of yourself this December – you deserve it!
Queen City Counseling & Consulting wishes you a wonderful, stress-free holiday season!