The 2016 Holiday season is upon us. No matter your religion or creed, for the most part the end of the calendar year is always filled with lots of activity.

The holiday season is filled with lots of activities such as shopping, family gatherings, holiday parties, gift giving , etc. For some the holidays can be perceived as stressful. At times the stress can leave us feeling depleted, overwhelmed to the point that it may even rob us of experiencing the joy of the season.

I invite you to consider that it does not have to be that way. Consider that just as any other thing in your life, our default is to make up ‘a story’ about our experience of the holiday season.

In this article, I highlight five strategies to help relieve stress this holiday season. The great news about these strategies is that you can use them year round in any situation you may find yourself.

So consider the holiday season to be a playground to practice, so that you are ready to embrace challenges in 2017 with less sense of overwhelm.

Strategy number one -Schedule regular downtime

Allot times during the day when you have some ‘me time.’ I suggest a time-frame no shorter than 10 minutes and no longer than 30 minutes.

During this time, your goal is to decompress, declutter your mind, and check in with your emotions. Your downtime should be about sourcing your inner self, allowing you to refocus.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with endless activity, consider downtime as a time to ‘correct the course’. Your downtime is NOT the time to catch up on chores, get on social media, or make phone calls. This is the time to disconnect from the outside world and focus on the inside.

Come up with a list of things that source you. Here are some suggestions of things you could consider doing during your downtime

  • Read inspirational material
  • Walk in nature
  • Say affirmations
  • Prayer
  • Meditation
  • Deep breathing
  • Journaling

Enlist the support of family members and friends in honoring your downtime. Remember it is not a long period of time that you are taking off. You could even enroll them in taking some downtime for themselves as steps to support their own wellbeing and reduce stress.

Strategy number two-Express gratitude every day

The Holiday season is a great time to express and recognize gratitude.

When we express gratitude in our lives, we train our subconscious mind to focus more on the positives in life that comes our way. What we  focus on, we tend to attract more of the same into our lives.  So rather than focus on the things that cause us stress, we can choose to focus on things we are grateful for.

Start a gratitude moment first thing in the morning or at the end of your day. Take on creating a list at least five things that you are grateful for every day.

Rather than repeating the same things each day, try to come up with at different things each day.  This will train your mind to begin to notice things more. The practice of expressing and writing down things you are grateful for helps you become more mindful. This is because  you will learn to actively notice things that are going on in your life.

Another twist to the gratitude practice is to try to see if you can frame things that you initially felt were a negative experience into something positive you can be grateful for.

For instance let’s say that you in the grocery store in the check out line and it’s crowded, rather than get stressed out about the long line, consider striking up a conversation with a fellow shopper. You never know you might learn something new.

Strategy number three-Keep physically active

If you are not already physically active, there is no time like the holidays to start an exercise program. Walking is a great form of exercise. Fitness trackers are a great way to track your progress. Plus fitness trackers make great gifts. Aim for 10,000 steps or more a day as a way to keep the calories and stress away. There are other forms of exercise like resistance training, balance training. Research the different types. Perhaps you could drop in on an exercise class you’ve been wanting to attend. Get curious, get active.

Strategy number four-Boost your energy with power foods

The holiday season can get fast paced to the point that we may skip on healthy meals and binge on dessert filled calories.

One health and wellbeing strategy is to boost your energy with foods rich in antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamin B complex.

To read more about power foods to boost your emotional health click here.

Strategy number five-Do not forget the reason for the season.

Finally do not forget the reason for the season. Whatever your denomination, the end of the year is a time for celebration. It is a time to strengthen our relationships to one another. To celebrate our victories, without dwelling on our past mistakes.

The holidays are a time for forgiveness and letting go of past hurts. A time for being love in action. I firmly believe that’s why we have family. Consider that our relatives are our greatest teachers. And rather than be stressed at the prospect of yet another Holiday gathering with your relatives that you embrace it as a place to practice being love.

That my friends is the reason for the season. Happy Thanksgiving!!