Staying healthy and safe during the holiday season

While the holiday season brings new memories, delicious food and joy, it can also bring stress, unrealistic expectations and even a couple of extra pounds. Here are some tips on how to stay healthy and safe during the holiday season.

Maintaining emotional wellness

One of the main health concerns that people face during the holidays is trying to maintain a sense of well-being. Kristin Stover, an adjunct professor for NSU’s College of Psychology, said that one of the factors that can cause stress is strained relationships.

“Many individuals find the holidays a very particular difficult time because of strained relationships with family, friends and former romantic interests. The holidays seem to bring up lots of emotion attached to relationships. It can bring a considerable amount of discomfort to individuals during the holiday season,” said Stover.

One of the tips Stover suggests for students is to look at the holiday season as a time for relaxing.

“The holidays are not supposed to be stressful. It’s during those times that we hopefully all have time to take a nap, read a book and catch up on sleep,” said Stover.

Lydia Killos, a professor at NSU’S College of Psychology, said that another factor that can trigger stress is our holiday expectations.

“Even if there’s an event that we’re really look forward to, there can be a sense of wanting everything to go perfectly or exactly as we have imagined it. Real life just doesn’t always live up to our expectations of this perfect event,” said Killos.

In times of stress, Killos suggested students pause and take 10 deep breaths to help bring them back to the present.

“It’s a nice reminder that we are only really responsible for our own behaviors in the moment,” said Killos. “Taking a few deep breaths and calming the central nervous system is a simple and powerful tool.”

Traveling smart and safe

Whether you are driving or flying, any form of travel can prove stressful during the holiday season. Three factors contributing to stress are emotional triggers, time and distribution of routine.

“Understanding your emotional triggers is very important for individuals who experience stress [when] flying or traveling. That sense of anxiety or stress that we feel is often based on us running out of time. If we can build in an additional half an hour to 45 minutes into our normal schedule, we might be able to alleviate a lot of that stress,” said Stover.

Another tip Killos had was bringing something along that gives you comfort and keeps you grounded in your normal routine.

“Whether you bring your yoga mat with you … or your running shoes to join your family or friends for a walk or run, aim to maintain some healthy aspect of your routine.”

Eating with purpose

Stress and the celebratory vibe can make a perfect combination for overeating. One of Stover’s recommendations for students is to avoid overindulging because it can cause problems after the celebration is over.

Killos also cautioned against overindulging and said, “though it is a celebratory time of year, we can still use mindfulness and thoughtfulness to help ourselves feel our best and our most energized.”

Handling social events and learning how to say no

Social events can also be stressful, especially when people feel bad if they say ‘no’, go for the wrong reasons or are simply spreading themselves too thin.

“I think it’s sometimes difficult for students, particularly students who have gone away for school, to say ‘no’ to opportunities to meet with people. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to see everyone who wants to see you during the holidays. It is important to create a list of the activities and individuals that you want to see, visit and spend time with.”

Before going to that party, Stover recommended that students ask themselves the following: “Will this situation bring me joy?” If not, Stover suggested students consider whether they would still like to attend the event.

Lean on your family and friends

Isolation can act as a harmful factor for those with depression and anxiety over the holidays. Spending time with family and friends can help break the isolation.

“For individuals who struggle from psychological conditions such as depression, struggle with an anxiety disorder or even just experience heavy stress burdens, having a loving or caring friend or family member as a sounding board is very significant tool in assisting them in managing their difficulties,” said Stover.

Staying safe during New Year’s Eve

While you can have fun, it can prove beneficial to have a plan of action for the night. Ride sharing services and designated drivers can help those who had a little too much fun get home safely. Another helpful tip to stay safe is be aware of your surroundings.

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