• Jennifer Moss

Battling Holiday Stress? Bears and Danes Have The Cure.

Holiday parties invites are now coming in at breakneck speed. How many of them do you want to RSVP “no” but you know you’ll go anyway? What about your shopping list? Is nagging at you to finish it. Then the weather – isn’t it kind of demotivating? How many of us just want to get under a blanket and say, “forget it!”.

If any of this feels familiar, you’re not alone.

For so many of us, it just feels like someone is turning this crank and all of us suddenly start scurrying around like mice, harried, and not feeling in control of our health and well-being. New research by Deloitte shows that we will spend more on gifts, food and booze than they will on their rent/mortgage. Over the Christmas period, we will make on average, six trips to physical stores, and seven visits to online retailers. 13 shopping events in 30 days has a huge potential to stress us out – particularly if we’re buying on credit. When January hits, an already blue month, this is when we really feel the impact of that overspending. We also seem to be ignoring the mantra “everything in moderation”. During the last six weeks of the year, data shows we double our consumption of alcohol.

Obviously, this takes a significant toll on our health and well-being. 1 in 3 people claim to experience burnout at work during the holidays and 80% of us find the holiday season to be ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ stressful – people are tired, moody, and general unhappy.

So what can we do about it?

We need to embody the bears and the Danes. Here's why.

Bears and Danes hibernate. Bears literally hibernate while Danes figuratively hibernate. The rest of the human race, despite 1000s of years of historically hunkering down and resting during the winter, have stopped giving in to that physical need. Even with the decreasing light increasing our melatonin and feeling of sleepiness and this desire for slowing done in the winter still considered a biologically embedded trait –– we are doing more not less.

Danes embrace respite unlike other countries around the world. It’s also likely why Denmark is consistently ranked year after year by the UN as the Happiest Country on earth. They practice something called Hygge (“hüe-guh”) which is roughly translated to mean cozy – or creating cozy feelings – and derived from a Norwegian word for "well-being. Since Denmark winters get such little light in the winter – daylight is between 8:30 am and 3:30 pm – they spend a lot of time inside. Even a certain type of sweatpants count as hygge – they’re called Hyggebukser and they are that pair of ugly sweatpants you'd never dream of wearing in public, but practically live in when you're hibernating at home. They also burn a LOT of candles – fun fact – they burn more candles than any other country in Europe. These are simple pleasures that don’t require us running to the store, battling traffic, and attending the fifth party in a week. These simple pleasures can be massively beneficial to our well-being. We just have to fight this unsustainable need to be busy and choose cozy instead.

Here are a some quick suggestions for ways we can assimilate the mindset of bears and Danes this holiday season.

  1. Give in to sleep – indulge in it – feel great about it! You’ll be nicer to people if you get more sleep.

  2. Light the candles, get a fire going, wrap yourself in a blanket, watch the snowfall, simplify

  3. Replace your cocktail with a club soda – especially at the work party – fuzzy drunk office party memories are very bad for your mental health – and your career

  4. Say no to any event you don’t want to go to – your time is a valuable resource – remove guilt-ridden obligatory RSVPs.

  5. Set a firm budget on gifts and don’t go over it – better yet, donate, create experiences, make handmade presents, or volunteer as a family.

And, my favorite suggestion -- the thing I am constantly striving for this time of year; the Danish awareness that after their basic needs are met, more does not lead to more happiness. They believe in restrained pleasure – a kind of moderation. Not just in relation to overeating or excessive drinking and shopping – it’s actually about modesty and teamwork and discouraging extremes. It is about fairness, the need for consensus, and equality. A reverence for measured experiences and being happy with what we have. More doesn’t make us happy. We have enough – we are enough.

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