10 Tips to Reduce Stress During the Holidays

Tips to Reduce Stress During the Holidays
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It’s that time of the year and depending on who you are you either love it or hate it. No matter your feelings about the end of year holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza, we all know that this time of year is super stressful. With the shopping, travel, and extra time spent with extended family members, it’s not surprising that most people find themselves frazzled and exhausted. While opting out of the celebratory hullabaloo may not be an option, there are a few things you can try to help reduce stress and keep a cool head

10 Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress

1. Don’t Slack on Meditation and Fitness Routines

As your schedule gets busier, self-care is usually the first thing to go. Don’t let it! It’s flu season, the weather is crappy, and you’re pushing yourself to the limits with extra responsibilities. Give your body and mind the best chance to combat these stressors. Continuing daily meditation will help you relieve stress and prevent it. A regular exercise routine not only keeps your body in top shape, but the endorphins released during exercise help reduce stress.

Don’t forget to pamper yourself with a little extra self-care if you need it.

2. Allow Yourself to do Less

If you tend to be an overachiever, this tip may be the hardest for you to attempt. I’m going to lay down some hard truth. Thanksgiving will not be ruined if you use canned or store made cranberry sauce. The Christmas party will be just as fun if you only make one type of cookies instead of seven. And New Year’s Eve is just as significant if you watch the ball drop from your couch in your pajamas.

Take a moment and analyze the “have tos” in your Holiday plans. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and wondering how you’ll ever find enough time to get everything done, it’s time to start cutting out the tasks you don’t really need. Sure the Christmas morning cinnamon rolls based on your great-grandma’s handwritten recipe are an important family tradition that you cannot sacrifice, but is a new handmade Pinterest inspired centerpiece really going to add extra meaning to the meal?

One of the big bonuses of cutting down your own expectations and allowing yourself to only do the important things is you’ll have more time to enjoy the holiday and the time with your family.

3. Plan Your Gifts Year Round or Get Everyone the Same Thing

There’s nothing worse than the week (or day!) before Christmas when you’re still struggling to find a gift for your cousin or that friend who has everything. While you’re already stressing about travel and cooking, you don’t want to fight the crowds at the stores to buy last-minute gifts. The easiest way to combat this stress: plan and buy gifs year round. If you can afford it, pick up gifts whenever you see something and think “Ah, that’s perfect for my brother!” This often happens when I’m browsing clearance racks or shopping at TJ Maxx and find an unexpectedly good deal. Keep track of who you have gifts for (the notes app on your phone is perfect for this) and when November comes, finish up your shopping early in the month.

If for financial or practical reasons you can’t do your shopping until the end of the year, keep a list off possible gifts that you can add to all year round (Pinterest is a great way to do this. Here’s an example of a gift ideas board. You can even make the board private so no one gets spoiled!). Whenever a loved one mentions “Oooh, I wish I had X” or mentions a problem they have that you can solve, add the item to your list. When it’s time to do your holiday shopping, all you need to do is select a gift or two from the list and buy it.

If there are so many people on your gift list that you’ve overwhelmed by picking out unique gifts for everyone, just get everyone the same thing. There’s plenty of thoughtful, useful gifts that everyone can use: candles, bath gels, socks, scarves, hats, gloves, gift cards, and treats are great options that most people will appreciate. Another thing to consider if your gift list is unmanageable: cut some people from the list, or suggest White Elephant or Secret Santa gift exchanges at family, office, or school gatherings.

4. Balance Holiday Treats with Healthy Food

The holidays are known for delicious meals, decadent desserts, and lots of booze. One of the joys of the season is to indulge, but you want to strike a balance to keep your body healthy. To stay energetic and focused enough to get through your long to-do list, make sure you’re eating “real” foods like fruits and vegetables in addition the Christmas ham and peppermint bark.

While you are partaking, keep your portions in control. Have a small piece of pie or one scoop of stuffing, but make sure your plate is filled mostly with healthier foods to create a well-balanced meal. This will help keep your weight in check as you avoid empty calories.

5. Be Positive & Assume Best Intent

One of the most stressful parts of the holidays is spending time around family or co-workers you don’t necessarily get along with. Whether it’s political views or personality conflicts that drive you batty, a bad interaction can quickly turn a joyous occasion into a sour experience. While it’s possible you have to deal with truly toxic people at your celebrations, most people are just trying to enjoy themselves and deal with their own holiday stressors.

Go into every event with a positive attitude. Try to be upbeat, friendly, and polite to everyone you encounter. When people get on your nerves, assume they have the best of intentions. Aunt Bertie may seem annoying if she frequently asks if you’ve tried her cookies, but in reality, she loves to cook and wants to share her favorite recipe with you. If Cousin Larry won’t stop bragging about his Christmas bonus, remember that he works hard all year to provide for his family and he just wants other people to recognize his success. When you assume the best of intentions, little things that can annoy you and pile up to create a bad mood can be shrugged off easily.

6. Get Outdoors

If you live in an area with particularly dark, dreary, and cold winter, this may seem impossible, but it’s worth the extra effort. Spending time in sunlight helps stimulate the production of serotonin, which makes you feel good. Walking outdoors, especially in a park or nature area, helps lower stress so you can relax your body and your mind. Take advantage of sunny days, even if it’s just a quick trip around the block. If it’s too cold to go outside, sitting near a sunny window can give you similar benefits.

How to Relieve Holiday Stress

7. Reflect on the Reason for the Season

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the expectations of the holidays that we forget the whole purpose to begin with. The last two months of the year go by in a blur, so make sure you take time to think about what these holidays mean to you. Prioritize moments of self-reflection or family, community, and religious events that reflect what’s important to you about the holidays. These mindful moments help you refocus and enjoy what’s truly special and important to you.

8. Ask for Help

In October, you may think you can easily handle the family’s Thanksgiving dinner on your own, but as the date looms closer you realize you’re in over your head. When your to-do list gets out of control, reach out to your family and friends to see if they can ease the burden a little. Have your relatives bring the sides while you focus on the turkey or ask your spouse to be in charge of the wine selection while you figure out how to fit 15 people in your dining room. Letting some other people take on some of the work helps free up your time and reduce stress.

Remember to cut any non-necessary have-tos off the list as we talked about in #2. Don’t just push your stress onto other people if it’s not important.

9. Just Do Something Fun

Take a break from the “go go go” by doing something fun that you really enjoy. This could be going ice skating with your partner, staying in and cuddling up under a warm blanket to watch a funny movie, or spending an afternoon at the spa getting pampered. Just make sure it doesn’t require extra work on your part and it’s actually something you enjoy. This fun timeout will let you relax and possibly laugh, which relieves tension in your body.

10. Step Away From Your Phone

It’s common knowledge at this point that our always-connected smartphones cause a lot of stress. This stress can be heightened during the holidays, so it’s important to take breaks from your phone as much as possible. When you’re at a party or spending time with family, turn your phone off or leave it in your purse (if you need it to take photos, put it on “Do Not Disturb” to avoid distracting alerts). Put your phone to bed before you go to bed so you can have screen-free time to de-stress and relax before you go to sleep.

Taking conscious moments to unplug helps to stop the stress cycle of being always connected and the negative effects of social media addiction. Practice good phone usage through the holidays and you may find a New Year’s resolution to spend less time on Facebook is easier than you expected.

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How to Relieve Holiday Stress

Make your holiday stress easier to handle with these guided meditations for stress relief. Shopping can be easier too with these meditation gift ideas and yoga gifts.

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