Bust The Holiday Stress Cycle

Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanza, the holidays can be a great time of joy for many. But for others, they are filled with anxiety and stress. You can set yourself on a more positive path – and bust the holiday stress cycle – when you understand the how to best support your body for joy.

When stress hits at this time of year, it’s easy to turn to that tray of cookies for moral support. After all, cookies won’t criticize you about your choices the way your family will. What we don’t realize is that we are self-medicating with sweets – the quick spike of sugar in our system can bring an increase in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of well-being and happiness. Sadly, the benefit is fleeting, and we find ourselves reaching for another fix.

How do we bust the holiday stress cycle? First admit that it’s a problem, and then consciously choose some strategies to support a different outcome. I am offering you these tips for boosting your energy and outlook through these coming weeks.

Be active

Instead of reaching for the holiday goodies when you feel a lag in energy, get outside in the fresh air for a walk, hit the gym, chase your kids in the yard, or just do something physical that appeals to you. You’ll release the stress and the exercise will help release the proper chemicals in your brain to make you feel better.

Workout your mind

Your brain needs exercise too! Rather than allowing your mind to dwell on the negative things that push you toward those cookies, give your mind something constructive to do. Take 10 to 20 minutes to yourself to read something engaging for you, or work on a crossword puzzle or something else that stimulates your mind in an enjoyable way. I use my Sudoku app for this purpose. It will help you feel refreshed.

Focus on healthful eating

While it’s true that the holidays are certainly a time for more indulgent meals, when you focus on your healthful eating prior to those big family dinners, it won’t be such a shock to your waistline. Make sure you’re eating meals that have a small amount of protein, a portion of good fat, minimal grain-based carbs and lots of vegetables. Don’t skip meals. If you starve yourself all day because your job or your family (or both!) is making you nuts, you’re more prone to stuffing yourself at dinner with things that aren’t very healthful.

Practice moderation

Yes, there are certainly foods we only get to enjoy during this time of year. But again, eating all of them isn’t going to do any good. So indulge mindfully and moderately. Looking forward to your sister’s famous pecan pie? Then focus on eating that when the time comes and say no to treats that aren’t as delicious.

Forgive yourself and others

No one is perfect. If you find you caved in to peer pressure at work and ate treats you declared you wouldn’t, forgive yourself and move on. Take a deep breath or two and release the situation. Get back on track with the next food choice and move your body. But above all, keep your head up and your focus on gratitude.

Make gratitude your focus

I have noticed that more and more people are recognizing how a gratitude practice is  profound in its effects. It isn’t time consuming – you are simply recording 3-5 things for which you are grateful on a daily basis. I have found it helpful to write these on an index card to review throughout the day. Something as simple as being thankful for the poinsettia arrangement my husband brought home, or the uplifting smells of spices, can shift my energy … and yours.

YOU are on my gratitude list. I am thankful for all who recognize that they have a choice related to their health. I’m passionate about encouraging the choices that will support their body and supporting those who prioritize their pursuit of wellness!

Kelly Lutman Pursue Wellness

Prioritize Self-Care

Do You Prioritize Self-Care?

December is a busy month! Many of us love the holidays, yet when you get past the anticipated special moments, there is far more demand on each of us. Will you come through the holidays with positive outlook or will you claw your way through to the end?

Are you doing the holiday cooking?
Who is hosting or organizing the holiday parties?
Are you the primary shopper? And who does the wrapping?
If you send Christmas cards, are you the one who writes the letter or signs and addresses the cards?
And then there’s cleaning the house, hosting guests …. and your daily responsibilities, too!

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired just reading this!

You could hire some help or you could come into this holiday season with a plan to focus on nourishing yourself for the tasks at hand. And by nourishing yourself, I’m not speaking of what you eat. There is more to it than food.

In my coaching training, we discovered primary and secondary foods. You might be surprised to hear that the edible stuff is secondary, and primary food pertains to your full well-being. It encompasses your relationships, career, physical activity and spirituality. You can eat healthy real foods, but if you are falling short in primary food, you won’t experience wellness.

What Is Self-Care?

We – women and men – need to nourish our minds, our spirits, our innermost beings. That’s where self-care comes in. Self-care is defined as the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress. Thriving is dependent on whether you prioritize self-care.

In an aircraft safety briefing, you are directed to put your oxygen mask on first. Does that sound selfish? How can you pour out to others without first filling up? If you would answer “yes” to any of the following questions, you need to shift your focus …

Are you feeling overwhelmed?
Do you ever feel like you’re running on empty?
Have you been feeling like you’ve lost your focus?
Have you experienced weight gain?
Are you feeling irritable or impatient?
Has your skin been acting up?

What Does Self-Care Look Like?

It can be as unique as you are, and you are the only one who can determine what will fill you up. Perhaps it’s a walk in the woods or coffee with a friend. It may be a mani/pedi, a massage or a walk on the beach. Self-Care is not usually an exhausting or sweaty activity, but rather one that recharges you. I found a list of self-care activities in this blog post to spark ideas. And it may take some experimentation to determine what works best.

Those who prioritize self-care have been known to experience positive impacts on their mental and physical health. It is an essential step to truly living a healthy, more balanced life. You, and those around you, are worth it.

As noted above, self-care is not a one-size-fits-all experience. It is important that you keep an open mind and remain committed to your self-care practice in order to reap the benefits. My goal is that you thrive this Christmas and set a new priority of self-care for the rest of your life.

You are important to so many people, and they need you to practice self-care so that you are there for them. Fill your cup to the brim for you and pour out for them. Everyone benefits!

Kelly Lutman Pursue Wellness