Holidays are filled with family, friends, and festivities—all of which can be sublime but also stressful unless you take these 23 tips.
Stress and the holidays seem to go hand in hand as family and friends demand your attention. You aren’t alone in feeling the strain caused by travel, extra workloads to cover the missed days, time constraints, and the pressure to be happy and whole in front of loved ones.
Smiles, especially the sincere ones, have a drastic effect on your ability to handle stress. Smiling lowers your heartrate during or after a stressful event, so grin and bear it. Try to make your smiles genuine, and they’ll do your heart some good.
Meditation is a powerful tool that too few of us use. You don’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor with a gong to put meditation to work for you. When the holidays get to be too much, take a moment to close your eyes, be mindful of your breathing, and let go of any building stress. That’s it. Don’t let the simplicity fool you, you’ll definitely notice the difference.
Counting your blessings does have health benefits. Gratitude improves well-being, leads to a happier life, and reduces stress. Think of things you are truly grateful for, and let those thoughts make you smile genuinely.
Generosity boosts the immune system and reduces stress. Give a gift, tip bigger, dole out a kind word, and watch your stress melt away.
Don’t be afraid to take a step back with your holiday plans. Taking on too much when planning parties and get-togethers can make your stress skyrocket. Go simpler, and do a little less of the planning by letting others help you.
Go for Good
Perfection is unachievable, and trying to get there will kill you with stress. Aim for good. Good is good enough. Your food doesn’t have to be totally amazing. Your decorations don’t have to blow away the neighbors. Your party doesn’t need to be the talk of the town. Make it good and enjoy it.
Use the holidays as an excuse to get away and enjoy your time off. Take a vacation. If you can’t get out of obligations, then take a moment to yourself when you can. Make a run to the store and blast your music. Take a nap. Go to the park. Get away from your stress!
Like smiling, laughter has positive effects on your heart, your blood pressure, and those very important endorphins. Tell a joke. Laugh at one your uncle tells, even it isn’t funny. Stress has a hard time sharing the same space as laughter.
Nature has amazing health benefits. Take advantage of it. Go for a walk in the trees, the snow, the fresh air, and you will shed stress with every step.
Drop the Phone
Maybe don’t drop it literally, but put it away. Phones, despite the reason for their invention, keep us from connecting with one another. They also tie us to the office and the ever-present demands of social media. Turn yours off for a couple hours and interact with the people you’re with. They will be happy to make eye contact, and you’ll feel better and more free.
Exercise reduces anxiety, depression, and stress. It can be as powerful as many prescription medications. Go for a jog, a hike, a bike ride, or even just a walk around the neighborhood before, or in the middle of, your festivities.
Negativity is a huge cause of stress. It can also be addictive. We tend to give that negative voice in our heads too much leeway. Learn to silence it. As soon as a negative though enters your mind, banish it with a smile (the genuine kind) and focus on the good things in your life. If you focus on the negative, you allow stress to build.
A simple deep breath can actually do a lot against stress. Breathe in as deeply as you can, hold it for a moment, and breathe out. You’ll find this is a great way to silence negativity too.
Treat yourself to something pleasant and enjoyable when you’re stressed. You deserve to be pampered a little without feeling guilty about it. Indulge yourself in the ways you love. Play your favorite song, get your hair styled, read a book, eat something decadent, or do something else you love.
Indulging yourself is fine in moderation, especially during special occasions, holidays, and stressful situations, but you don’t want to overdo it or guilt will pop up and create more stress. Enjoy yourself, but take it easy on those indulgences.
Go Hands On
Human touch can do amazing things for stress release. Get a massage or spend some quality time with the one you love. A little human contact can keep that stress at bay.
Turn Up the Tunes
Music has huge effects on the way you feel. Use soothing, tranquil music to lower your stress levels, or simply play your favorites to make you smile. Stock your phone or music player with the best stuff before the holidays to stay safe and stress free.
Spice it Up
Spices can alter mood. Our sense of smell is also tied to memory. Use the spices and scents that make you happy to bust through stress. Cinnamon, rosemary, peppermint, ginger, and many more can help you refocus and relax.
Sleep is the body’s natural defense against stress. It is when we heal and rebalance. If the stress is building, try a short nap. You’ll be surprised how great you feel when you wake up from a 20 or 30 minute nap.
Trim the Schedule
You don’t have to do it all. If you are in charge of your schedule at all, don’t be afraid to cut back or to schedule in some breaks. You aren’t the only one who will need them.
Have you gone into a movie with high expectations and then been deeply disappointed? Or gone in with low expectations and been pleasantly surprised? Expectations determine our stress in many ways. Temper your expectations. Don’t expect everything to go swimmingly. You will be happy with how they do wind up.
Get Some Sun
The holidays can be stressful for half the world for the lack of sunlight. Your brain needs the sunlight to produce the right neurotransmitters and to get essential vitamin D. If the weather cooperates at all, spend some time in the sun.
Bag it All
Sometimes the healthiest thing is to spend the holidays in your pajamas by yourself or with just the people you love the most. It’s okay. You don’t have to always give in to tradition if the stress is really getting to be too much for you. If your in-laws complain, you can blame it on me.
Whatever you wind up doing and wherever you go, try to have a safe, fun, and less stressful holiday season. Don’t forget to breathe and smile. You’ll do fine.