Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Phenomenon of Holiday Stress and How To Combat it

It’s official, we’re in full-on holiday season.  ‘Tis the season to indulge in time off, time with family, and lots of delicious food.  However, what some people think of as the happiest time of the year can end up being quite the opposite through a phenomenon known simply as “holiday stress”.

A study published by the American Psychological Association found that leading holiday season stressors include a perceived lack of time, money, pressure of giving or getting gifts, family gatherings, and an inability to stick to health goals.  More than 80% of people surveyed reported feeling stressed and fatigued “often” during the holidays.

Additionally, in order to combat the stress, people tend to turn to less-than-optimal coping mechanisms, eating more and moving less.  We understandably think that indulging often and relaxing our way through these stressful months will make them a little easier to deal with.  However, this leads into another source of stress: an inability to stick to our current health goals!  Consistency is king.  It isn’t our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners that make us gain those extra pounds we desperately want to shed come January 1st, it’s what we do all the other days surrounding these special occasions in the hopes of being able to enjoy ourselves and relieve undue stress.

So, it seems like one thing just leads to another.  Is there no way to break the cycle?

As it turns out there is a calorie-free alternative to relieving holiday stress: the concept of shifting set!  Shifting set is simply a fancy term coined by psychologists to represent “updating or shifting cognitive strategies to respond to the changes in our environment”.  In simpler terms, it’s the ability to be flexible and adaptable.

By adopting a more flexible and adaptable approach to the holidays we can save ourselves a LOT of undue stress.  Just think: instead of stressing out about not getting as much time as you wanted off from work for that vacation, why not just adapt to the new timeframe and channel that energy into reorganizing your itinerary and still going on a fulfilling mini-vacation?  Instead of being upset that your workout schedule has been completely thrown off by traveling and bad weather, be flexible…adapt…create a new workout schedule that works with your current circumstances!

This holiday season, make sure to rely on flexibility and adaptability (and maybe a relaxing massage) to relieve stress so that you can actually enjoy this time of year!

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