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What’s supposed to be the happiest time of year can quickly turn into a stressful flurry of holiday activities and endless shopping lists, even in the best of times.
Many people spread themselves too thin trying to make this time of year perfect, which can lead to burnout. And in a pandemic? It’s asking the impossible.
It’s not easy to switch gears, but it really doesn’t have to be this way. With an arsenal of our Life, But Better tips at your disposal, you can relax as the season comes to a close and the new year begins.
Prioritize your tasks
Some people may think they need to do everything to have a happy holiday season, but that isn’t the case, said Sarah Clark, a research scientist in the department of pediatrics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Families should communicate with each other what the most important activities are so they know what traditions can be cut, she said.
“You don’t have to do it all, but you can’t expect to read everybody’s minds,” Clark said.
Baking to connect with others
Baking can be a therapeutic activity that brings people together, said baker Eric Pallant, author of “Sourdough Culture: A History of Bread Making From Ancient to Modern Bakers.”
His specialty, sourdough bread, takes plenty of love and care for a great loaf. It also allows people to take a break from the hustle and bustle of life and reconnect with each other, he said.
“That you’ve taken the time to make it and make it with your hands and share it with somebody else, what could be more wonderful?” Pallant said.
Running out of ingredients because of supply chain issues? Try these easy baking hacks to substitute ingredients.
Take a walk
Walking is a great way to reduce anxiety and lower stress, especially outside in nature.
It can also help increase your energy levels, giving you more stamina to complete the tasks on your list or having fun with loved ones.
Other forms of exercise will certainly offer similar health benefits, but walking is a great option for those not accustomed to exercise, said Evan Matthews, associate professor of exercise science and physical education at New Jersey’s Montclair State University.
“It is likely a familiar movement, removing the learning curve that occurs with a new form of physical activity and the intimidation factor many feel when starting out,” he said.
Put the phone away
Scrolling through hundreds of social media posts is one way people take a break during a busy day, but it actually increases stress, said Vaile Wright, senior director of health care innovation at the American Psychological Association.
“It’s probably reflective of individuals that are not establishing boundaries as well as they could be,” she said.
Wright recommended blocking out times during the day where you turn your notifications off. If you need someone else to hold you accountable, take a walk with them without any electronics (including a smart watch).
Take a power nap
With all the activities going on, getting enough sleep is often one of the first things that is cut, despite it being one of the most important parts of your health. While adults should get at least seven hours each night, a quick nap might be a holiday solution.
Taking a short afternoon nap can leave you feeling refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the day, according to Dr. Rajkumar Dasgupta, associate professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC in Los Angeles.
The nap length should not exceed 20 minutes because anything longer could put your body into a deeper stage of sleep, he said.
If you sleep for longer than that, you could wake up feeling more tired than when you went to bed, which is called sleep inertia, Dasgupta said.
Call a loved one
It’s easy to feel out of control when you’re overwhelmed and stressed, but a short call to a trusted family or friend can remedy that, according to research published earlier this year in JAMA Psychiatry.
Talking for only 10 minutes on the phone with a loved one can make you feel less lonely, said Maninder “Mini” Kahlon, associate professor of population health and executive director of Factor Health at The University of Texas at Austin’s Dell Medical School.
The key is to make sure the person on the other end of the call is an empathic, active listener, she said.
Other people in your life may need a good listener during this time, so reach out to loved ones and be that listener for them, too.
“Prioritize just listening to them in their words and where they prioritize their interests,” Kahlon said.
These simple but meaningful activities can go a long way in helping you de-stress, so take some time to incorporate a few of them into your routine.