How to Keep Your Sanity This Holiday Season, According to Wellness Gurus

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People say the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year but if we’re being totally honest, the season isn’t all candy canes and Hallmark movies. 

Simply put, the holidays can be really stressful. Not only do you need to wrap up all of your annual goals at work, but you’ll also need to buy presents for all your loved ones, attend a boatload of parties, and endure those champagne-induced hangovers. (Hey, it happens.) All while trying to keep your normal, day-to-day routine intact? We have a headache just thinking about how busy the holidays can be.

The good news is the holidays don’t have to be the craziest time of year. Truth is, it is possible to enjoy the holiday season without losing your cool. To help, three wellness experts share their tips for handling the holidays with ease. 

Just Breathe

We’re not going to sugarcoat it for you: The holidays can be a lot. Between juggling conversations with your in-laws to having back-to-back parties, finding the perfect present for your Secret Santa recipient, and meeting all your work goals, it’s easy to feel overworked and overwhelmed. Before you spiral into a pit of pure panic, take a breath. Really.

“Every two to three hours, give yourself a two minute time-out,” says Erin MacDonald, RDN, fitness and wellness expert who co-founded the website URockGirl. “Get near a window with sunlight coming through, close your eyes, and just breathe slowly and deeply. Inhale for a count of five, hold for a count of five, and exhale for a count of five. Do 5 rounds and you’ll feel like a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders.”

If you want to make sure you stick to your breathing, set a timer or regular reminders on your calendar.

Get Back to Reality

Whether you are knee-deep in gingerbread cookies or so busy traveling that your fitness routine goes out of whack, we’re all prone to falling slightly off the wellness bandwagon once the holidays roll around. According to Ilse Paanakker, founder of a wellness tech company called Habit House, it’s okay to indulge in the holiday spirit. 

“Truly enjoy an un-routine week by planning ahead of time when you'll pick your healthy habits back up again,” she says. “Don’t become so regimented you’re unable to enjoy special moments. It's totally OK if you don't exercise or meditate as much as normal (or at all!) during the holidays.”

The key, she adds, is to enjoy the holidays as they happen—and knowing when to kickstart your wellness routine. 

Don’t become so regimented you’re unable to enjoy special moments. It's totally OK if you don't exercise or meditate as much as normal (or at all!) during the holidays.

“Before the un-routine week starts, identify when your usual routine (and healthy habits) will start again. Put this on your calendar and tell someone so they can hold you accountable. Then enjoy your week!”

Set the Mood

Whoever thinks hosting is a breeze has clearly never simultaneously entertained 25 people, cooked a three-course meal, and made sure everyone’s glass was filled with something bubbly. Unless you’re having a casual Netflix and pizza session, hosting can be a complete pain in the neck—and it can be difficult to keep calm and carry on. 

For Sara Panton, co-founder of Vitruvi, the key is to set the mood with scents.

“When hosting large groups during the holiday season I create a space in my home where I can recenter my energy during the chaos,” she says.

Sure, you can zhuzh up your home with a bevy of candles or fragrant room spray, but it’s also important to create a space where you can decompress.

“Before guests arrive I turn my bedroom diffuser on and add 20 drops of lavender oil. I close the door and as I'm hosting the room fills up with the scent of relaxation,” she says. “Periodically throughout the evening I'll quietly slip away to the bedroom where I take three deep breaths of the lavender infused air. It reminds me of my intention to stay present, and helps calm my energy and in turn, makes me a better host.”

Clock in Some ZZZs

Once the holidays roll around, you want to do it all. The late nights binge-watching all three Home Alone movies. The cool afterparty your work wife is planning. Waiting up with your nieces and nephews trying to get a glimpse of Santa Claus. Sleep can wait, right? Not quite. 

“I can’t stress how important sleep is for your mental, emotional, and physical health,” MacDonald emphasizes. 

Not to freak you out or anything, but a lack of sleep can have some serious lasting effects. If you’re looking to curb your sleep habits for the better, power down your electronics one hour before bedtime. (Yes, that means you’ll need to stop mindlessly scrolling on Instagram.)

“Electronic devices emit blue light, which interferes with your brain’s ability to produce melatonin, the hormone that makes you feel sleepy,” she says. “It takes at least an hour without blue or LED lights to produce ample melatonin so when your head hits the pillow, it’s lights out in just a matter of minutes.” 

Sweet dreams!

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