It’s no mystery that sleep (rather, lack of) and stress can go hand in hand. Being overstressed keeps you awake at night and leads to unrestful sleep, while being sleep deprived causes things to stress you out easier and less able to handle the tasks of the day, inevitably becoming a cranky person. It’s a vicious cycle to be in. The holidays, full of cheer and merriment, are no stranger to stress either. Between holiday parties, pageants, gift buying, family visits, and who knows what else is on that to-do list how is anyone supposed to actually find time to rest? Here are a few tips to help guide your way to a fun and well-rested holiday.
Even if you don’t usually keep a calendar, agenda, or task list, do it for this time of year. Print out a calendar, draw your own, or fire up that calendar app and write down every event, task, and person you want to see, or thing you want to do. Staying on top of your daily and holiday to-dos will keep you from getting blindsided by anything and help you to not procrastinate on tasks. Get your shopping done, clean the house, wrap the gifts, and when you get to have some fun you won’t have to be worried about ‘the next thing’. The last thing anyone wants is for everything to snowball into an overwhelming mess preventing you from enjoying your time with friends and family.
Saying ‘no’ can be really hard but it can also be empowering. Think about yourself and what you can give, or want to give, in terms of your time or commitment to something or someone. Maybe you can’t get out of volunteering for the school pageant, but you can minimize the time you spend this holiday with people that stress you out or you find unpleasant. Your time is limited so don’t feel too bad about prioritizing people, sometimes you can’t see everyone or do everything. You could try getting everyone together for one event rather than go to 4 different ones to see everyone on your list. This one might take some reflection and thought, but staying organized can help you put your time in perspective.
Without getting too much into how to manage your diet (there are tons of articles that do that already), just be sure not to eat too close to your bedtime as it can cause sleep disruptions. Watch out for sugars since they’ll make you crash and pay attention to your coffee intake since too much or too late can mess with your sleep schedule. While we’re on the subject of sleep schedules, mind your alcohol too. While alcohol may seemingly help you fall asleep, as your body processes it, it will interfere with your proper sleep cycle leaving you feeling groggy the next morning—and possibly hungover.
With an increase of other things to do it’s easy to knock exercise to the bottom of the list but that shouldn’t be the case. If you can get into your usual routine, fantastic! Exercise helps you manage stress, feel better (thank you endorphins), and sleep easier—all things that are pretty important right now. If not, try modifying your work out. Maybe find a HIIT routine so that you spend less time but still get a good work out, find time to stretch between activities or tasks, take the stairs if you can, or even park further away from the store to get some extra steps in (it might even save you time getting in and out of the lot). And, bonus points for getting sun exposure while doing any of this. You’ll soak up some vitamin D and help keep your circadian rhythm regulated.
Do your best to stick to your normal sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking at the same time will help you get the rest you need to tackle your busy days. As mentioned before, sleep is important for managing stress but it also keeps you alert, balances your hormones (like the stress one, cortisol, and the one that makes you hungry, ghrelin) and mood, and helps your memory. You don’t want to have fun things planned but then be too tired to enjoy them or snap at anyone during a holiday party. If you need to, schedule a nap in your day to help with your alertness but remember: keep it to 20-30 minutes and try not to have it after 3 pm.
If you don’t have one yet this is a great time to start. At least an hour before bed, it’s time to put all your blue-light emitting devices away and get ready for sleep. Your routine can include a variety of things but the point is to do it consistently so your brain recognizes that now is the time to mellow out. Reading, a hot bath, listening to relaxing music, drawing, or journaling are some options you can try out. Anything that helps calm you down and doesn’t require bright lights. Whatever your takeaways from this are, the important thing to remember is to have fun and enjoy your holiday season. Get some sleep, take care of yourself, and don’t be a grinch!
We wish you the happiest of holidays!
The Integrated Neurology Services Team