5 Ways to Stay Calm and Rested During the Holidays

The following article was co-written by Joe Burton and Dr. Jeffrey Durmer

Ah, the holidays.

Most of us live for them and count down the days to the end of the year. But they’re also incredibly stressful with the family reunions, lack of parking at shopping malls and jam-packed highways and airports; not to mention trying to finish up all your work projects before the year’s end. It’s no wonder people tend to lose their cool often during the most wonderful time of the year.

Have you ever noticed that you tend to sleep poorly when you’re stressed? By the time we lay down at night, our daytime activities may have already set the stage for an awful night’s sleep. And then we feed the insomnia beast. We start with a hint of strong worrying, add a big dose of regret, sprinkled with anxiety and a splash of grief, longing and maybe a few conspiracy theories for dessert. We glance through our to-do lists for the next day… Or next week… Or next year. The more we do this, the better we get at driving ourselves nuts. It’s a vicious cycle.

When you feel the stress of the day in your mind or through body tension, it pulls you out of the natural process of programmed sleep. But there is good news – you can learn to control the mind-body synergy that leads to sleep, so you can get your much needed (and well deserved) rest during your time off.

Try these five ways to improve your holiday cheer and finish the year off strong:

#1: Practice Gratitude

It’s the perfect time of the year to practice gratitude. Research from the Mayo Clinic shows the power of gratitude to improve your health. Introduce a gratitude practice into your sleep routines. Name one or two things you’re grateful for when laying down to sleep each night and do the same each day when you wake up. A side effect may be improved relationships around the holiday dinner table.

#2: Don’t Let Free Time Throw Off Your Biology

Having “no schedule” or “unstructured relaxation” is a great way to let go. Amidst the “unplugging”, remember that your brain and body function on a regular cycle. Use the holidays to “allow” your sleep and wake cycles to follow their natural, regular times, and see how good it feels to give yourself the gift of sleep. It might be the best gift you get this year.

#3: Eat Your Holiday Feast as Early as Possible

Eating signals the brain and body that we have more energy to use and we should be awake. We know it’s the holidays, but large meals are to be avoided in the hours before sleep. You literally want to be “hungry” for sleep.

#4: Skip the Alcohol

Yes, we went there. We know it’s tempting, but alcohol is a potent REM/deep sleep suppressant. Avoid it whenever possible. And if not, at least several hours before bedtime.

#5: Stop-Breathe-Notice-Reflect-Respond (SBNRR)

Did someone cut you off to steal a parking spot on the last day to buy presents? Or did Uncle Jimmy make a snide comment about your life choices? Take a moment to try SBNRR. It’s a powerful mindfulness practice that’ll help stop awkward family tension dead in its tracks.

Whil’s Targeted Wellbeing Program for Improving Sleep

Interested in the connection between sleep, mindfulness and performance? Learn more about an in-depth clinical program designed to synchronize your mind and body to improve sleep with Dr. Jeffrey Durmer and Whil.