The holidays are oftentimes equal parts gratitude, excitement, and stress. It can be challenging to stay grounded and look after ourselves this time of year. How can we prepare for the sensory overload and avoid the season taking a toll on our well-being? Splendid’s founder, Nicole Centeno, weighs in.

People cram a lot into the three weeks before the holidays. For most, this intense and sudden increase in activity is a real shift from normal routines and triggers a stress response. Chronic stress makes us more irritable, while simultaneously making us crave comfort (like food, sleep, and escape). In short, it messes with everything from immune response to sleep patterns and digestion.

During my own moments of holiday stress, I even get irritated when someone tells me I need spend more time on self care: to take a long bath or get a facial. Between the parties, gift-buying and card-writing this time of year, who has a whole hour to get a facial or run a bath?! What I do find helpful are concrete methods that keep me at peace through high energy moments. I may not have the time to get to the acupuncturist, but if I can find peace in line at the post office, I consider it a pretty big win. Here are my top tips for keeping calm this holiday:

  1. Accept. Accept that you will probably say yes to more than usual. That means more holiday treats and parties that will leave you feeling tired, and last minute activities that will make you uneasy. It’s okay. When we accept that these things will temporarily feel uncomfortable, we actually start to feel a bit more calm.
  2. Take a minute. You might be rushing to get those holiday cards out, but the reality is that a 1 minute pause can mean all the difference between a slightly irritable moment and you going full-on Grinch. As soon as you feel the rush of anxiety (sweaty palms, racing heart, frantic mind), take a pause and focus on your breath for one full minute. When we are stressed, our cognitive ability declines and we start to make impulsive decisions — often leading to more stress. It’s a vicious cycle. The 1 minute pause is incredibly powerful for moving your body out of stress and back into logical thinking mode.
  3. Know your limit. We are really good at overestimating our capacities, and often inevitably skip out on commitments because we feel overwhelmed. Cue the guilt, which contributes to stress, too. Everyone has a limit to the number of extra events they can attend each week. My normal routine is at least 3 nights at home with the kids and 2 nights with my boyfriend. That means the number of extra weekly events I can say yes to during the holidays is 1. That’s it. When I say yes to more, I start feeling guilty about late nights away from my kids and end up cancelling last minute. This becomes a really stressful cycle for me, so I’ve had to accept that I can only say yes to about 4 holiday events every year.
  4. Appreciate the little things. The holidays are not about how much you get done, how quickly you finish your shopping, or how strong your willpower is around sugar cookies. It’s a wacky, upside-down season of excitement, memories, and lots of emotions. When we are particularly stressed, we are also particularly sensitive, so practice kindness and patience with those around you. Holding the door for someone juggling shopping bags and 3 cranky kids means a lot more this time of year, and that’s a beautiful thing.

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