Directing Stress of the Holiday Season into Health Promoting Behaviors

Snowman. Flickr:  Robert Snache - Spirithands.netGoodness knows we all have stresses to contend with in our lives and the holiday season, despite all of the joys it can bring, often accompanies additional opportunities to feel overwhelmed or harassed.  As fallible humans, we need some means to vent and a weapon to battle the tornado of chaos that frequently sets in this time of year. Self-destructive behaviors such as overeating, addictions to unhealthy foods, body disorders, and alcoholism, are common ways that people have found solace when life brings out its monster claws of anxiety or sadness. 

However, what if we used the anxiety or stress in our most positive way possible instead of hurtful ways? The best gift we can give to ourselves when we are not feeling our best is to take a moment and think about joyful activities that can make our lives richer and our bodies healthier. Instead of seeking comfort in sugar laden or processed foods, why not go to the gym and feed yourself a nice helping of endorphins? You will definitely feel better, and I dare say empowered, because there really is nothing more rewarding than setting positive goals for yourself and achieving them. Instead of feeling even worse after doing something to harm yourself, you will feel better that you did something to put another foot in the door to finding optimal health, wellness and emotional satisfaction.

“Tis the season to be jolly,” the song says, so let’s walk the talk, urr, lyrics. In addition to saying no to the standard American holiday fare of cookies, pies, cheeses and other decadent disease promoters, let’s strive to take out all of our daily, weekly and even chronic stressors in as healthy a manner as possible. Meditation, appreciating art, books and movies, preparing nutritarian meals, any form of physical activity and socializing with the people we care about- these are all wonderful ways to give ourselves the biggest gift of all. Mental health is just as important as physical health and there is no denying that the two are intertwined and can travel downhill or uphill together.  Yes, even sports, television, movies, music and books are positive for your health.  Play games, tell jokes, share fun activities; enjoying life is health supporting. 

The empowerment we obtain from seeking positive behaviors to battle life’s hardships reinforce even more positive behaviors.  To continue with the example of going to the gym, if we begin to experience the joys of a feel-good workout, those feelings can motivate us to go to the gym even more and achieve fitness goals previously unprecedented in our lives.  I cannot think of a better way to fight stress than by telling it that it doesn’t have any power over us. Taking care of our health is one of the best, most rewarding ways to do this. Pop those blueberries, eat those mushrooms, and say yes to kale as you say hello to more “jolliness” this holiday season.  

Following through with the Holiday Challenge is a way of showing gratitude for the beauty of our lives. Although nobody’s life is perfect and stressful events will never completely cease to exist, we all have so much to be grateful for too. By seeking health-promoting behaviors, we are expressing thanks for the present that is our lives and for the ability to maintain good health.

I wish you continued success on the Holiday Challenge and as many relaxing, stress-free days as possible!   


Image credit: Flickr -  Robert Snache -


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Nicole Stout - December 19, 2012 7:40 PM

Just a couple days I took my anger and frustration about gun control out on a 45 minute elliptical run. Luckily I got to vent to one of my best friends during that time. It was a one two punch. I felt so good after leaving.

I also think it's helpful to take control of more of my social settings. I so often overeat when there are cookies in front of me. My solution? Start having get togethers at my house where bad foods aren't as readily available. Anyone else have any tips for the holidays?

Janeen - January 5, 2013 12:24 PM

This is very inspiring and insightful. Let's retrain ourselves to honor ourselves with healthy responses instead of hurt ourselves with overeating under stress.

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