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How to Avoid Winter Stress Meltdowns

For millions, winter is anything but a wonderland.  Managing the anxiety, fatigue and mood swings associated with winter stress can be a challenge.

Whether you call it winter stress or holiday blues, the period between November and January sends many people careening toward anxiety, overwhelming busyness and even feelings of inadequacy, and that’s without the added stress of Covid.

To help you start winter off right, here are several valuable and timely tips to help you avoid holiday meltdown and survive the anxiety often associated with the winter season.

First, start by really taking care of yourself both physically and emotionally. You are much more likely to avoid bouts of anxiety and drastic mood swings with this one simple step. Just be aware of what you are currently doing so you may make changes for the better.

For example, many people tend to overeat when anxious or stressed, particularly during the holiday season when high-calorie foods are plentiful.  While comfort food can be a great thing every now and then, over-doing it can have some unexpectedly unpleasant effects.  Indulging in too many sweets or high-fat meals can trigger increased anxiety, mood swings, fatigue and even erratic behavior.

By simply paying attention to the types of foods being consumed, as well as the amount, you can avoid many of the nasty pitfalls associated with using food as a stress reliever.

Second, caffeinated beverages can also have a definite negative impact on winter stress.  Studies have shown caffeine consumption increases the production of stress hormones such as cortisol.  This can result in increased feelings of anxiety and nervousness as well as increased fat accumulation, particularly around the belly area.

Of course, the most well-known effects of caffeine are “jitters” and sleeplessness, which often aggravate and intensify physical and emotional stressors.

The issue of sleeplessness frequently goes hand-in-hand with winter and holiday stress. And that is why it is number three on our list of things to help avoid winter stress meltdowns. Irregular or hectic schedules can leave you lying awake at night with thoughts and worries keeping sleep frustratingly away.  A lack of good, recuperative sleep plays havoc on the body’s hormones which affect physical and mental health.  The result is an increased level of anxiety, depression  and often even anger.

If you find yourself frequently losing sleep, try going to bed and rising on a regular schedule.  Yes, even on the weekends. Also, avoid heavy meals, sugar-laden snacks or alcoholic beverages within three hours before your regular bedtime.  As you lay down to sleep, make a conscious effort to create a mental picture of yourself relaxing on a beach, getting a massage or perhaps curled up in front of a warm fire.  Whatever you consider relaxing, send your thoughts there.

Another excellent way to help ensure a good night’s sleep is regular exercise during the day.  Staying active also relieves stress and encourages the production of mood-lifting hormones.  If hitting the gym every morning just does not fit your lifestyle or schedule, at least commit to taking three or four brisk 30-minute walks per week.  With this little bit of regular exercise, those extra pieces of pie or fudge will have a harder time finding their way to your waistline.

Number 4: Mediation is another highly effective “stress buster.”  This can be in the form of yoga, deep breathing or simply turning down the lights and listening to soothing music.  You do not need elaborate equipment or a special room for this.  Just find a quiet corner and spend 20 minutes letting the stress of the day wash away.

Finally, number 5. Set specific, attainable goals for the holidays, for next year, heck even for next week!  For instance, if you want to lose weight, create a plan, and do your best to stick to it. Goal-setting is a great way to take control of your life, particularly when faced with stressful situations.  And be sure to celebrate each milestone you achieve while working toward your goals, no matter the size.

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