Health & Wellness - Putting a HALT on holiday stress

Courtney Rupertus

The holidays can be tough. Along with the good tidings, presents, and delicious foods, there is usually some angst, frustration, and stress.

Whether it has to do with seeing your extended family, repeating childhood patterns, a serious illness or death in the family, or simply getting burned out from “too much” holiday running around - stress around the holidays can really negatively affect your overall health and wellness, leaving you feeling depleted and exhausted for the new year.

Author and entrepreneurial leader, Lee Colan, has coined an acronym that can help you stay positive this holiday season. H.A.L.T. is an easy way to remember not to get too Hungry, too Angry, too Lonely, or too Tired. Colan gives an example of how to put this into practice: “Excuse me while I grab a bite to eat while I vent to a friend and then I’m going to have a nap.”

The holidays can mean many things to many people, but the consumer/productivity culture that dictates we work, work, work so we can buy, buy, buy is great for those making a profit, but hard on your body and mind. Most of us cannot afford for our mental and physical wellbeing to end up on the bottom of our priority list.

Hunger - If you have any anxiety or negative feelings around whether or not you will overindulge this holiday season, just remember to be gentle with yourself. Enjoy your holiday treats, savour them, and then eat healthy, whole foods as much as you can.

Sometimes the more stress there is around the supposed “bad behaviour” of eating sugary treats, the more we end up overeating them and beating ourselves up over it. Focus on self-compassion above all else.

Support and nourish yourself by not skipping meals in order to overindulge later, drink alcohol moderately, and listen to your body when it comes to sugar, caffeine, and portion sizes.

Anger - Some may wonder why anyone would feel angry around the holidays, but many of us understand what it’s like to spend days on end with family members that trigger us. While you cannot control your family, you can aim to change how much you engage or react to certain situations.

So much of what goes on amongst families is habitual and familiar; it can be extremely difficult to choose another path. Meditation, yoga, and carving out time just to be yourself can help create a buffer between you and all the drama if need be. Rather than being a “crisis meditator” and waiting until you’re angry, practice as preventive medicine for your soul just as you would any other time.

Lonely - The holidays can also be a very lonely time for some. You may have had someone you love pass away, or a serious health diagnosis that makes it seem like the holidays are just not worth celebrating. While alone time can be soothing in some ways, it’s just as important to reach out to someone if you’re feeling lonely or depressed.

If the busyness of the season doesn’t appeal to you, some ideas for connecting can be as simple as going through a photo album and reminiscing with someone close to you. Keeping things quiet and intimate will help ensure you have that special time to connect without feeling overwhelmed with all of the holiday hoopla.

Tired - Finally, you don’t want to let yourself get to the brink of exhaustion or burn out by not prioritizing sleep. You may not want to cancel all of your plans that keep you out at a later hour, but you could consider adding naptime to your holiday schedule.

Sometimes just lying down in a dark and quiet room, not watching TV or scrolling on your phone, can be enough to recalibrate your nervous system, reenergize you, and leave you feeling restored rather than depleted.