5 Mental Gifts You Can Give Yourself When You’re Feeling Holiday Stress

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There’s no one better equipped to deal with holiday stress than a Peloton athlete. All year round, our instructors coach us through tough climbs and guide us up unbelievable peaks, helping us push through the pain and sweat to reach our goals. But it’s not their physical fitness that gets us there–it’s their mental toughness, their empathy, and their ability to break down a challenge and lead us through to the end. Freedom from holiday stress is the best gift you can get at the end of the year, which is why we asked four instructors who love to bring their sense of Zen what they’d like to give you this season, and all year long.

The Gift of Planning

Unsurprisingly, the people who churn out week after week of challenging workouts and killer playlists are pretty methodical about their holiday planning. “To minimize anxiety, try making plans and setting goals for the entire month, then break it down week by week by priority and time requirements (shipping, wrapping, etc). Better a minor freakout at the end of each week than a total meltdown on Christmas Eve,” says Peloton Bike instructor Denis Morton. Some of that planning also goes into your own activities during the season. “As the holidays throw off our routines and derail our training plans, be sure to go into any potentially disruptive events with a plan for managing self-preservation,” says Peloton Bike instructor Christine D’Ercole. Create a schedule that includes activities that will keep you on track or at least close to on track, like using Peloton Digital to get your exercise in or simply planning a walk or a bike ride outside. “Be sure to have a plan in your calendar. This will reduce the opportunities for unfavorable situations to arise,” she says.

The Gift of Perspective

“While the holidays are meant to be full of celebration and joyful gathering, they often incite a great deal of anxiety and stress caused by a variety of things. We get caught up in what we are going to wear, eat and drink, and forget that it is about our relationships with loved ones that matter. I think we can reduce some stress by keeping perspective about that,” says Christine. When family tensions get high, as they do for many of us, empathy and remaining in the moment is key. “I always try to see both sides of the story and be open-minded to how everyone might be feeling,” says Peloton Tread instructor Oliver Lee. “I have been raised splitting my time between seeing my mum and seeing my dad and learning to appreciate my time with everyone individually and being present with whoever I’m with is very important.” And if the person you need to be present with is your Netflix avatar, that’s okay too: “I’m the kind of person that wants to be everywhere and do everything all the time but also be on my couch–so I look at what’s going to boost my energy as opposed to drain it, then plan accordingly,” says Denis.

The Gift of Mindfulness

Many Peloton instructors have a meditation practice, and it’s a great pairing with an intense exercise regime. “Meditation and mindfulness to me brings more calm and clarity whereas exercise is more of a release and adrenaline rush, so it gives me the balance I’m looking for in life!” says Oliver. Denis recommends starting small, with just a few deep breaths, and then progressing to a 5 -15 minute break to really hit the reset button if needed. And if you’re not the type of person who can sit totally still for any length of time, there are equally good alternatives that are a little more active. “Whether one takes time to specifically meditate or engages in some other quiet time activity that has a meditative quality, it is important to make sure that time is taken. For me, that is found in both riding and writing,” says Christine.

The Gift of Gratitude

“If you can focus on being grateful throughout the holiday season, it will make any drama no matter how big or small seem less significant,” says Peloton Bike instructor Emma Lovewell. “Be grateful for what you have, your home, your friends, your health, your family (even if you aren’t getting along at the moment). Gratitude can get you through some really difficult times.” After spending his first holiday in NYC alone, Oliver found a new sense of joy in seeing friends and family. “It made me realize how important friends and family are at these times. This year will be different!” says Oliver. Refusing to take the routines of the holiday for granted can help you to find a new appreciation for old traditions and familiar faces, and being fully present also helps you to enjoy the moment, rather than getting lost in anxiety. “Most of the things we worry about never happen–focus on what’s in front of you,” says Denis.

The Gift of Movement

“Exercise is a great way to move your energy, if you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed,” says Emma. If you are used to exercising every day at a certain time, try to keep that schedule even through the holidays so you can focus more at work or at home. “I am sure to take time for myself in the form of exercise,” says Christine. “Excusing myself for a bike ride always helps clear my mind and allows me to return feeling grounded in myself and releases endorphins that certainly help keep an elevated mood.” If you’re away from your Peloton Bike or Tread and need a more flexible option, Denis recommends exploring yoga. “Not only is the physical practice a powerful tool to relieve all types of pressure, but as we take our practice off the mat the value grows exponentially. From weather to holiday traffic to people, it helps us see the things that challenge us most as our greatest teachers,” he says.

The Gift of Communication

It’s harder than ever to unplug for family time, but put down your cell phone as much as possible, says Oliver. “Condense your emails and social media time to a 30 minute slot in the morning, lunch time and evenings and you’ll realize how wonderful it is to be present with your loved ones.” Clear communication is also important while you’re spending that time together, especially if you’re feeling like you’re walking on eggshells with another person. “In order to reduce the risk of poor behavior at holiday gatherings, I have limited the length of my visit as well as mindfully managed my communication,” says Christine. “Whether there are petty grudges and under-the-breath commentary or full-blown outbreaks on account of mental illness, we cannot cannot control what other people are going to do. We can only manage ourselves, our words and our behavior.”

The Gift of Time

Take time for yourself, your family, and your friends–in whatever order is most enjoyable for you. “Don’t worry so much about what you are getting people as gifts, but actually make time to go visit a family member you haven’t seen for a while or even be the host for a change and invite people over! It will keep everything in perspective and remind you how special these people who are close to you in life,” says Oliver. Christine takes the time to sit down with elderly family members especially–”I love sitting down with my elders and asking for stories I have not yet have heard, or would like to hear again. I love to map out the family tree and see if I can finally keep the branches straight!” And Emma stresses it’s important to remember to take care of yourself as well as the other people in your life. “If you need to sweat for 20 min before the day gets started to help calm your mind, make that a priority. If you need 10 minutes to yourself in the middle of the day, figure out a way to prioritize that so you can be your best version of yourself for the people that you love,” she says. As Denis put it to us all, “The reasons we pause to celebrate have heartbeats, not price tags. The people that matter most prefer a smile to a scarf. Make the travel arrangements. Make the phone calls. Make the egg nog. Let the rest fall into place.”


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