Holiday Stress and Weight Gain: Staying Calm and on Track

Published by FitWatch

When you think of holiday weight gain, you probably think about all of the delicious foods lurking everywhere you turn. Holiday parties, family dinners, office luncheons, 20 dozen Christmas cookies cooling on your kitchen counters - there's no shortage of temptation during the holidays.

But there is another contributor to holiday weight gain, and it has nothing to do with food.

The holiday season is known for being one of the most stressful seasons of the year. You may have heard that stress is a major contributor to the formation of belly fat, thanks to a little chemical called cortisol.

Even if your eating habits are downright angelic throughout the holiday season, letting stress get to you may still cause you to gain a few pounds.

The good news is that avoiding stress-related weight gain during the holidays is easy if you follow these simple steps:

Calm Your Mind

Daily meditation is an excellent way to release stress.  It doesn’t have to be a complicated form of meditation, either.  Simply sitting quietly with your eyes closed and taking a few slow, deep breaths can knock your stress level down by several notches.  And that’s in just a few minutes!

If you can devote 10 full minutes twice a day to simple meditation, you’ll notice a huge reduction in stress.  You’ll not only feel calmer, you’ll be able to think more clearly, your memory will improve, you’ll have more energy, and you’ll feel more balanced emotionally.

See: How to Effectively Listen to Your Body’s Needs

Release Physical Tension

When you’re stressed out, do you ever feel like all of your muscles are strung too tight?  Your shoulders feel like they’re wrapped up around your ears, your lower back feels like it might snap if you bend forward, your legs might be restless, arms achy, stomach churning.  Whichever way tension shows up in your body, you can’t help but feel uncomfortable.

Daily exercise does wonders in releasing tension - and you don’t have to spend a lot of time doing it to enjoy great results.  Even marching in place for 10 minutes followed by a gentle stretching routine can instantly make you feel more relaxed.

If you enjoy walking and the weather is nice, take an invigorating walk after dinner each evening.  When you go shopping at the mall, take 10 minutes to stroll briskly around and focus on how festive everything looks.  You’ll be stimulating a positive mood while releasing tension from your body at the same time.

Make Time Just for You

No matter how busy your days are, it’s vital to set aside a little time for yourself.  Even if you just relax with a book or watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the thousandth time, you need that downtime every day.

If you truly can’t fit it in every day, aim for a minimum of three or four times a week.  Devote at least half an hour or more to doing things that make you feel happy, and you’ll suddenly find that the things you “have to do” don’t seem so stressful anymore.

See: How to Set Personal Boundaries

Practice the Art of Detachment

Ever have one of "those" days?  You struggle with an endless parade of rude, pushy customers in stores; battle heavy traffic wherever you go; verbal barbs constantly fly from your well-meaning mother, “Is that a new suit you’re wearing?  It looks a little snug in the waist, maybe I can let it out a couple of inches for you.  These mashed potatoes are a little lumpy; you didn’t make them, did you?  Your sister just got promoted again… how is work going for you?

If your holiday season is usually filled with annoying and stressful scenes like these, you may want to devote a little bit of practice to the art of detachment. Being able to step back mentally and emotionally from troublesome people and situations is a skill that can serve you well for the rest of your life, not just the holiday season. 

Detachment means refusing to become emotionally invested in the situation at hand.  If you can calmly keep your emotions in check rather than getting angry, defensive, or aggressive, you will avoid taking on too much stress. It helps if you are able to avoid taking things personally.

Pushy customers in stores are not trying to make your life difficult; they’re just in a hurry like you are.

Heavy traffic is not a curse being delivered upon you and there is nothing you can do about it, so plan ahead and find ways to use the time constructively instead of fuming.

Your mother’s comments don’t have to affect you unless you choose to allow them to.  Instead, you might think to yourself, “That’s her opinion; she’s entitled to have one and so am I.”  Or, “I like this suit; I don’t care what she thinks about it.”  Or, “I like my mashed potatoes lumpy.” 

The point is to not allow anyone or anything to push your buttons.  Stay in control of your emotions and you’ll feel like you have greater control over your life in general. 

Deep breaths, my friends.  Deep breaths.

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