Stress can wreak havoc with our sleep and with the holiday season fast approaching there is a never-ending list of things to worry about. Stress and sleep just don’t mix well together, but what can you do this holiday season to make sure that your sleep doesn’t suffer?

Five ways to help combat stress around the holiday season

Rest

Often easier said than done, a great way to minimize the build-up of stress is to take regular rest breaks. It is important to make sure to take time to rest and relax each day. This can help to keep your body and mind healthy, especially during busy or pressure-filled times like the Christmas holiday season.

Resting for even just five minutes here and there throughout the day can be enough to diffuse and offset a build up of stress.

Eat well

During the holiday season, many of us will overindulge and give ourselves permission to forget about eating healthy. It’s best to remember to enjoy your food in moderation. A quick trick is to eat slower. It takes the brain approximately twenty minutes to let us know that our stomach is full. When you eat slower, you eat less and will feel less full and bloated afterwards.

Another strategy is to eat a little bit at a time, then give yourself twenty minutes before you eat more. If you do this, you may discover that you don’t need or want as much as you originally thought.

Being selective about how much you overindulge can help prevent the unnecessary stress that comes from eating a lot of unhealthy food. The more you manage your stress now, the less of an issue it will once the Christmas season is over.

Drink in moderation

Alcohol is a drug that lowers your mood and has a negative effect on the body. While you may feel good WHEN you are drinking, your body will experience the negative effects afterwards. Be mindful about what how much you drink because it ALL has an effect on your body, mind, and mood.

Practise mindfulness

Living in the moment is a great way to discover the present joys in life. You can do this by practising mindfulness.

Mindfulness is being present in the moment. It can reduce anxiety since anxiety occurs when we think about the future in an overwhelming manner. The more time you spend in the present, the less time you’ll spend worrying about the future.

Don’t put holiday pressure on yourself

The Christmas season is often filled with things you feel you ‘have to’ or ‘should’ do. Most often, doing things we feel we have to do can create stress, and for people who are overly anxious, anxiety.

So this holiday season, plan on doing more things you want to do rather than things you feel you have to do. It’s okay to say ‘no’ to requests or demands you don’t want to fulfil. Spending your time doing the things you want to do this holiday season is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. You are not being selfish by putting your mental health first. 1

How to sleep better when you are stressed

When we get stressed we cannot sleep and then the stress gets worse. It is a never-ending cycle that has bad consequences for our mental and physical health. Managing your stress is an important way to ensuring you have a better quality of sleep.

Relaxation techniques

If you are feeling overwhelmed there are a number of ways you can help calm down your brain. There are many relaxation strategies that can help such as breathing techniques, mindfulness or guided meditation. Allow yourself time to dedicate to relaxing before bed, some guided meditations can last less than 10 minutes and help you switch off and drift off.

Belly breathing

Belly breathing is easy to do and very relaxing. Try this basic exercise anytime you need to relax or relieve stress.

  1. Sit in a comfortable position and put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest.
  2. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out. Your chest should not move.
  3. Breathe out through your mouth. Feel the hand on your belly go in, and use it to push all the air out.
  4. Do this breathing 3 to 10 times.
  5. Take your time with each breath.

4-7-8 breathing

This exercise also uses belly breathing to help you relax. You can do this exercise either sitting or lying down.

  1. To start, put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest as in the belly breathing exercise.
  2. Take a deep, slow breath from your belly, and silently count to 4 as you breathe in.
  3. Hold your breath, and silently count from 1 to 7.
  4. Breathe out completely as you silently count from 1 to 8. Try to get all the air out of your lungs by the time you count to 8.
  5. Repeat 3 to 7 times or until you feel calm.2

Switch off the smartphone

Our smartphones give off a blue light that can interfere with our body’s natural rhythm, try switching your screen to night mode if your phone supports this, remember to dim down the brightness and try to resist from going on your phone an hour before bedtime. To learn more about your body’s circadian rhythm you can read about it in our handy introduction article here.

Take a hot bath or shower

Taking a hot bath or shower will help you unwind and de-stress. Plus going from warm water into a cooler bedroom will cause your body temperature to drop, naturally making you feel sleepy.

Journalling

Often at night time, we can go over our daily to-do lists and worry about workload or the upcoming daily tasks. It can be helpful to write all these feelings down before bedtime or even write a to-do list to get these worries out of your head and onto paper.

Exercise

Regular exercise can help to promote a deeper sleepExercising during the day reduces the levels of stress hormones in your body, but avoid exercising within three hours of bedtime.

Avoid alcohol & caffeine

Avoid caffeine at least four hours before bedtime. As a stimulant, it will keep you awake. Alcohol is a depressant that you might think will help you fall asleep. However, when your body metabolizes it during the sleep cycle, it often disrupts sleep and wakes you up. 3

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