Monday, December 11, 2017

10 Tips for Managing Holiday Stress in Fifteen Minutes or Less

by: Dr. Tracy Dalgleish, C. Psych.

Holidays bring us a lot of joy. But the increased demands and events at this time of year can also bring us a lot of stress. We tend to say that we are ‘too busy’ to tackle stress and instead of trying to manage it, we push ourselves to get through each day. Come January, many clients end up in my office burnt out. Managing your stress does not have to take hours each day. Just a few short minutes each day can help you not only cope during this busy time, but also prevent burn out down the road.

Here are ten tips that take less than 15 minutes each day to help you manage stress.
  1. Go for a 15-minute brisk walk. It could be around the building during a break, or around the block when you get home.
  2. Take ten, slow, intentional breaths. Breathe in through your nose counting to six, and exhale slowly through your nose counting to six. Try this while taking a shower, or standing in line at a store.
  3. Notice five things. Whether you are sitting in your office, in traffic, or watching your children play, say to yourself, ‘I notice the license plate in front of me,’ ‘I notice the red book on my shelf,’ or ‘I notice the colour of the lights.’
  4. 5-4-3-2-1 with your senses. Notice five things with your sense of sight (see previous). Notice four things with your sense of touch – the roughness of the chair you are sitting on, the smooth edge of the table, the warmth of your coffee cup. Notice three things you hear – the hum of the computer, a car buzzing by, a door opening. Notice two things with your sense of taste (e.g., the taste of toothpaste left in your mouth after brushing your teeth) and smell (e.g., the smell of fresh air). Take one deep breath in through the nose and slowly out through the nose.
  5. Talk to a friend, lover, or co-worker. Sharing with a significant other about what is contributing to your stress can help you problem solve or work through your emotions.
  6. Listen to music. It can be soothing to listen to music that puts you in a good mood.
  7. Try a guided relaxation or mindfulness exercise. I recommend this “Leaves on the Stream” exercise on YouTube. You can also download the app Head Space and get ten free short exercises to try each day.
  8. Let go of unhelpful thoughts. We all have them - the thoughts of worry, the thoughts of “what if,” the thoughts of the worst-case scenario, or predicting the future. First acknowledge that you are having these unhelpful thoughts, then try letting go of your thoughts and focusing on what you are doing in the moment.
  9. Stretch. We could learn a lot from watching a dog or cat. Every time they move, they stretch! Try lifting your arms over your head with a breath in, and as you let the breath out bringing your arms back down.
  10. Make a list. Writing out your to-do items can help unload the mental energy of trying to remember everything you want to get done. Try breaking items down into small, achievable tasks, and prioritizing items.

Finally, if stress becomes too difficult to manage, reach out for help. Trained psychologists and therapists are available at CFIR to help you manage stress, depression, and anxiety.