The holiday season is a very special time of year, but all the added activity, shopping and togetherness can lead to significant stress. This stress can affect your health, and can sabotage the quality and quantity of sleep you enjoy as well. (And if you thought the holiday season was a little stressful with regular sleep, see how much more stressful it can be when you are sleep-deprived and more prone to stress!) The following tips can help you to safeguard your sleep and truly enjoy this holiday season.
Many of the factors in your environment that cause stress–being too busy, hashing out conflicts and other issues–can also affect your sleep. In fact, stress itself can adversely affect your sleep. During the holiday season, this becomes more of an issue. You may find yourself rushing more, and this may leave you with less time for sleep. You may find yourself worrying about money at night when you should be sleeping. You may find yourself rehashing conflicts with friends and family you only interact with during the holidays–instead of sleeping. If you take a minute to focus on whether you are getting enough sleep and, more importantly, what is affecting your sleep, you are in a better position to increase the amount of sleep you are getting, and improve its quality. The article linked above covers some of the top stress-related reasons why we don’t get enough sleep. Below are some additional resources that provide a fuller picture of what sabotages sleep and what you can do.
At the beginning of the holiday season, most people find it exciting to partake in holiday shopping, parties, baking, decorating, and other activities. By mid-December, many people have found that these activities, on top of their already-filled schedules, have left them exhausted, or at least less enthusiastic than they would like to be. By the time the holiday season is over, many people are relieved, but are left with extra pounds and debt, and fewer emotional reserves than they had before the season started. If this sounds familiar, you may find yourself feeling very different if you pare down, pace yourself, and only do the things that will truly bring you joy–or things you really have to do. In the link above and the list below, you will find strategies to simplify this holiday season, and leave room for sleep and sanity.
3. Pace Yourself With Activities
In our family, we had an unplanned tradition of doing things right up until the last minute. I recall several years when my mother would be up until the wee hours wrapping gifts, and I would do the same after I had grown up and moved out. (I actually found this to be a bit fun when I was growing up, but it became less enjoyable when I had small children and sleep was scarce.) Learning to pace myself with holiday activities like decorations and gift-buying and -wrapping helped to cut down a lot of holiday stress. This meant less rushing at the last minute, less cutting corners where I hadn’t initially planned to cut them (rather than making targeted cuts as discussed above), and more time for what I enjoyed. Whenever you find yourself reading this, make a plan and see how much you can get done in the near-future–not the last minute–so you can spend your last minutes before the holidays really enjoying your time with your loved ones rather than rushing to get it all done
During the holidays, we often find ourselves spending time with people we love but rarely see. (Or with people we don’t particularly love, but must see.) This may include relatives, friendly acquaintances, or people in the office with whom you don’t normally socialize–holiday parties and visits often bring us together. You may be one of the lucky people who gets along wonderfully with every member of your extended family and all of the people you encounter at work, but if you aren’t, you already know the stress that this can bring. When this many people are thrown together–particularly in the case of out-of-town visits–conflicts often erupt. Whether these conflicts are overt or are simmering under-the-surface, they can cause stress, both during the visits themselves and in the time leading up to them. Conflicts with others can also bring hard feelings that last for some time afterward. All of these things can affect sleep as we lay tossing and turning at night, thinking of what we should say or what we wish we had. Brush up on your conflict resolution skills, your communication strategies, and your plans for dealing with difficult people, and you will be better equipped to ease your way through some of the stickier situations of the holidays.
We can’t eliminate all the stressors of the holiday season, and if we tried, we would also cut out many of the activities that make the season special. Another important stress management strategy that can help you get a better night’s sleep is to add at least one habit to your lifestyle that promotes inner peace and, thus, helps you get better quality sleep. This could be meditation, exercise, or even just some “me time” during the day, but you should try to do at least one thing for yourself that counteracts stress. This can help to counteract the effects of chronic stress and help you become more resilient. It can also help you to more easily unwind at the end of the day, and fall into a deep, restful sleep when you want to. The following strategies can help.
Staying mindful and really enjoying the special times as they happen, you can increase your enjoyment of the season and bring your focus away from stressors you may face. Mindfulness is an effective stress management technique, and can help to promote better quality sleep as well, so this technique carries several benefits. Remember that this particular holiday season will only come once, and that next year may be quite different. Savoring the special moments as they unfold can help you to have a happier, healthier, more restful holiday.