Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

It’s not that the holidays are inherently stressful (although sometimes they are!) – it’s simply that this time of year tends to be exponentially more busy than normal.

When you’re trying to squeeze in a workout after your child’s Christmas concert but before your office holiday party, it can start feeling a little hectic.

Here are some ideas (some of them mine, some of them from clients!) for making a smooth transition into 2019 with a happy body and a happy mind:

Tip #1: Focus on the basics.

It can get overwhelming to feel like you have to “eat clean” to be healthy, when your home and office environment are swimming with extra treats. Instead of pressuring yourself to eat perfectly, just focus on the essentials of healthful eating. Make sure you:

  • Get enough protein (aim for at least 1/2 your bodyweight in grams per day!)
  • Drink a lot of water
  • Eat your veggies.

Take it meal by meal. An easy way to make sure you’re eating enough protein, for example, is to have a lean meat, eggs, dairy, lentils, or another plant-based protein at every meal. Instead of the English muffin for breakfast, reach for yogurt or eggs. Instead of the French onion soup, order lentil soup. Just break it down into individual decisions and ask yourself, “How could I add a protein source here?”

You can apply the same principles to eating more vegetables and drinking more water.

Tip #2: Get enough light.

This is where physical health and mental health converge. A huge challenge for many people in the northern hemisphere in November is the decrease in natural light. Most people get some kind of seasonal blues, but for some people, it’s more intense – seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.).

The lack of light (coupled with the colder temperatures) can make anyone feel more tired and lethargic, as well as emotionally down. This is not a recipe for a vigorous exercise habit.

Here’s an idea: one of my clients in NYC kept a bright, bright blue light in her apartment, and even as I type these words, I can still picture that surface-of-the-sun brightness as if I’m there right now. Getting bright light in your eyes throughout the day (especially in the morning) with a lamp like this one can help with warding off low moods and low energy, and give you the boost you need to stay active.

On a nice day, try to get outside and get real sunlight in the middle of the day! It’s not easy to do when the weather is poor, but every little bit helps.

Plus, because vitamin D deficiency can be a problem in the winter, make sure to regularly eat salmon/tuna/mackerel, eggs, mushrooms, and vitamin-D fortified foods like fortified dairy. You may need to take a supplement.

Tip #3: Embrace a winter version of your health and wellness routines.

For me, winter turns smoothies into soups, salads into roasted vegetables, running into weightlifting, and late nights into more sleep. When I’m this uncomfortably cold, it’s all about staying warm and embracing the season.

It’s normal for your approach to your health and wellness to change as the temperature and light shifts. Many people tend to beat themselves up, especially if they just precariously conquered some new habits at the end of summer, if their habits change or falter.

But this can be a creative opportunity to transform your outlook – what does being fit and healthy really mean? It all comes down to being active and nourishing your body. This may not look exactly the same season-to-season, and ideally your healthy habits make you happier and more relaxed, not tense and more stressed out.

Tip #4: Focus on the aspects of your exercise that benefit you the most.

Again, this is an easy one to overlook. When you’re maxed out on time, you may not be able to attend to every single detail of your usual exercise routine. If you’re procrastinating about going to the gym because you know it’s a 90-minute workout, and the days without the gym keep adding up, then you may need to revise your expectations of yourself.

If you’re extremely busy, make your gym sessions 20-30 minutes long, and increase the intensity. Going hard for 30 minutes three times a week is better than no session at all after a week of procrastination. Between workouts, focus on eating well and getting in sufficient steps throughout your day.

I often talk with clients about lowering the bar, and then meeting the lowered expectations. This is a good strategy to use during stressful times.

Tip #5: Buy the right winter clothing.

Several of my remote coaching clients live in Minnesota, and they still manage to spend an incredible amount of time outside… because they have the right clothes.

Instead of staying inside, they bundle up and take advantage of the limited daylight and go for walks (and snowshoeing), warm and cozy in their warm winter coats.

Meanwhile, this Louisiana girl over here in New Jersey feels like a martyr if I have to spend more than five minutes outside in 40-degree weather – so I’m partly preaching to myself here!

Layer up. Wear wool. Get the right socks. Get the right coat. Wear a hat and gloves, and switch to warm boots for walks instead of athletic shoes. It’s amazing how much more manageable the weather is when I’m dressed for it!

You can do it!

Need some help this holiday season? Check out online coaching as an option to keep you accountable, consistent, and moving forward on your fitness goals! 

Rachel Trotta

I am a Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Physique and Bodybuilding Specialist, and Women's Fitness Specialist. I live in New Jersey in the NYC metro area, and I coach clients online all over the world. As a trainer and health writer, my mission is to make healthy living sustainable for the average person. I’m also a wife, mom, nature lover, runner, avid cook, weightlifting aficionado, history nerd, travel addict, and obsessive podcast listener. Get in touch!

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