A Note From Sarah:
That wonderful, blonde ray of sunshine next to me is Nicole Schrader. Nicole and I met because a mutual friend encouraged us to connect. At lunch, we discovered that not only did we attend the University of Northern Iowa at the same time, but we were in a play together! During our initial meeting, it struck me how real and raw Nicole was. Her energy was contagious. And after just a few hours of chatting, Nicole asked how she could best support me. I jokingly said, “I don’t know, just make sure I’m breathing!” From that day forward, Nicole will send me messages to remember to breathe. She is my breathing buddy! Without fail, after every message, I take a big, relaxing breath. Take it away Nicole!
Is your holiday forecast stress-free?
(Spoiler alert: the answer is no. No holiday is stress free.)
I don’t mean to start out the newsletter as a downer, but I wanted to get real quickly, as we don’t have much time to get to know one another. My name is Nicole and I am Sarah’s “Breathing Buddy,” former stage-sharer, fellow dip-enthusiast, and mental wellness warrior. My current job is in Hospitality, but my work is in Wellness; teaching yoga, meditation and empowering others to live a lovelier life though health coaching. I am a truth-teller, growth-generator and will be your biggest cheerleader if you need one.
Here in Tropical Des Moines, Iowa, we have been experiencing the extreme bi-polarity of our weather, which is a great synonym for our holiday stress levels. Just as our holiday season will clad us in parkas to puffy vests, we will see a range of people we love and people who drive us nuts.We will overcommit ourselves and overeat and overdo it all if we don’t get equipped with some serious stress managers.
My mama always says that “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” In that same realm, I’d say that “there is no such thing as a stress free holiday, but your stress levels are on YOU.”
As a yoga teacher for the last 13 years(yes, since I was ten 😉 ), people generally assume that my life is low-stress. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. As I am typing this, I just spent the day with my son, who was sick, snuggling on the couch while working on my laptop because I am a single mom who has no remaining PTO. The secret(shhhh) about us “experts” in the field of stress management is that we have walked through the fire and survived, were empowered by our victory, and we want to help you do the same.
Below are some of my favorite tips to help you manage stress this holiday season and, hopefully, beyond. Before we dive in, I want to do a short exercise that is my favorite super quick stress buster. If the rest of the newsletter is too long, I hope you get to here and can use this.
Three breaths: I know, it sounds too easy, but I need you to trust me. Here we go!
- Step one: Exhale out all of your air, then inhale for a count of four and exhale for a count of 8.
- Step two: Do this 3 times(or more).
- Step three: Notice how you feel.
That’s really it. You can do it literally anywhere and it can change your whole day. You can read more about the benefits of mindful breathing here. Now, let’s get to more stress mastering tips!
Know your enemy:
What does your stress look like? Where do you feel it in your body? What activities do you have coming up that are stress-inducing? Look at your past holidays, what worked? What didn’t? Who are you looking forward to seeing? Who are the family members that make your skin crawl? What gives you energy? What takes it away? What can you change about last year to manage this year better?
Maybe all of these questions are stressful, just notice that. You need to know what you’re dealing with and where you’re coming from before you can attack it.
Don’t ignore it, as if it’s not happening. That’s the worst thing that you can do. It’s the equivalent of not buying a winter jacket when you know it’s coming.
If you are prepared to be stressed, you can do simple things (like taking some mindful breaths!) to help you calm your mind in these situations
Know your resources:
When I speak to this, I mean ALL of your resources: your time, your energy, your money, your fuel, your access to stress relieving activities.
- Time: How are you using your time? Are you doing things that fill you or drain you? Could you cut your screen time and listen to a meditation instead? Are you overcommitted? Can you scale back? Do you really need to spend so much time shopping or can you shop online or buy experience gift coupons instead?
- Energy: Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Most introverts can lower stress by giving themselves a curfew at parties or events. Most extroverts need to be SUPER careful here because one can overdo it(speaking from experience here). Look at your calendars, are you giving the things that fill your cup your energy? If not, you might want to limit your interactions there or cut them out.
- Money: Are you freaking out because you don’t have enough for gifts this year? Last year I was on a newly single mom budget so I opted to make these. I might make them every year because my family loved them so much(act surprised if you’re reading this, mom!) Or does making things stress you out? Make “gifts of service” coupons like babysitting someone’s kids, watching their dog, making them a meal in the future…
- Fuel: This is a HUGE one for me, now that we are all friends here, I can share that I have battled with anxiety and depression my entire life and had a MAJOR breakthrough this year when I looked at my diet. The holidays are full of alcohol themed events, and drinking excessively will lead to depression, which heightens stress levels. You can read more here. Not to mention the cookies galore, eggnog and other sugar-laden goodies that are brought into the office. Read more on the ways sugar can elevate stress. I am not asking you to not drink or eat your grandma’s cinnamon rolls this season, but I do encourage you to look at how you’re fueling your stress: are you feeding it by overdoing sugar and alcohol? Or are you keeping it at bay with moderation?
- Access to stress managers: I use the word “stress manager” because I don’t think stress will ever leave us, we just get better at managing it. The following are my favorite stress managers:
- Meditation: There are incredible benefits from a regular meditation practice, not just reducing your stress levels. I like these apps to get you started, or Headspace and Insight Timer.
- Yoga/Fitness: My personal favorite form of exercise is power yoga, but I know that it’s not for everyone. When people ask me if they can lose weight doing yoga, I respond “Only if you enjoy it.” I encourage you to find the form of exercise that you love and do it often. The benefits go beyond managing stress. Here are some of my favorite FREE fitness resources: Yoga with Adriene, Pop Sugar, and Fitness Blender.
- Breathwork: We’ve already reviewed the benefits of breathwork and stress, here’s 6 more exercises to get into your body and out of your head.
Know that YOU CAN SAY NO:
Yes, I said it. YOU CAN SAY NO. Say it with me: I CAN SAY NO. For some reason, many of us drop all of our boundaries with our time. It’s not worth it. You can tell your Mom I said so. Not that she knows me or anything, but I am happy to be the scapegoat if you need one.
Hitting the holidays without knowing what you’re up against is like going outside without your hat and gloves – BE PREPARED. Evaluate your calendar, Use your resources and set big boundaries(by saying no!). I’m predicting the best holiday yet for you, I believe in you and know that you have the power to have a lower-stress holiday.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you’re going to manage your stress and if you need some extra support. You can find me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cheers to a Happier Holiday season, my friends! Stay warm & ready for anything! You’ve got this!