Reducing Holiday Stress

12 Ways to Destress Amidst Holiday Madness

Employ these easy reenergizing techniques when you need them most this  season


The most wonderful time of the year, huh? So why do the holidays sometimes  feel like a month-long panic attack? “During the holidays, people have such high  expectations for things to be perfect,” says Jon Abramowitz, PhD, professor of  psychology and director of the Anxiety and Stress Disorders Clinic at the  University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. In other words, we take on too much,  then feel anxious and stressed out when reality doesn’t measure up to the  flawless fantasy in our heads.

The best way to dodge holiday stress: Take a time-out. A break from the  hubbub re-energizes and refocuses you, making you able to avoid holiday stress  (or at least handle it better). Plus, it doesn’t take much time. Whether you  have 15 minutes or just one, here’s how to catch a break that will restore your  sanity and your ability to savor the season.

15 Minutes

Be a uni-tasker Even if you’re a veteran multitasker, taking on too  much at once can make you feel frenzied over time. So when you hit the next  semi-enjoyable item on your to-do list—mixing up a batch of cookie dough, say,  or stringing popcorn for the tree—drop everything else and focus your attention  on the task at hand: what it feels, smells, sounds and/or tastes like. “You’re  still getting something done, but by giving yourself permission to be fully  immersed in the experience, you’re mentally recharging yourself,” says Kate  Hanley, author of The Anywhere, Anytime Chill Guide: 77 Simple Strategies for  Serenity. “It’s like meditation in motion.”

Create a holiday playlist Nothing makes you feel merry and bright  faster than seasonal songs, from “Winter Wonderland” to “Silent Night,” and with  good reason: Research shows that listening to music can crank down stress  hormones, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and kick your anxiety to the  curb. So make it easy to listen to holiday songs by creating a playlist of your  favorites in iTunes, then playing it in the background while you wrap gifts. Or  go to and tune into one of their holiday stations,  like Peaceful Holidays or Swingin’ Christmas.

Make friends with Frosty Maybe you haven’t built a snowman since you  were a kid, but making a miniature Frosty not only gives you an instant creative  outlet, it provides enough pulse-quickening activity to make you feel good.  “When you exercise, your body produces endorphins, which are the ‘happy’  chemicals in your brain,” says Dr. Abramowitz. “You’ll come back inside with a  different mindset.” Plus, that snow sentinel on your front walk will be a  season-long reminder to loosen up and have fun before the holidays melt away.

10 Minutes

Focus on the vision Think about the three holiday traditions you love  most, like lighting the Chanukah menorah or singing Christmas carols with your  kids. Pencil those things in your calendar, and let go of the rest. “What  stresses us out is that we don’t take the time to say what we really want,” says  Linda Hedberg, a Minneapolis life coach who conducts workshops on making the  holidays less stressful. “Women need to make plans based on their vision, and  get rid of the stuff that doesn’t fall into that vision.”

Speed-read Curling up with a good book can be the ultimate winter  luxury, but if you don’t have time for an extended tête-à-tête with a novel, try  something short and sweet, like a few poems a day, or a couple of pages of  Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Better yet, sign up for, a service that e-mails you  a daily excerpt of fiction, nonfiction, romance or other genre of your choice.  You get to enjoy literary downtime without any pressure to read ahead.

Organize something It’s not as crazy as it sounds, says Beverly  Coggins, a professional organizer in Stow, Ohio, and author of the 1-2-3…Get  Organized series. When life feels out of control, setting a silverware  drawer in order or whipping the gift-wrap box into shape leaves you feeling like  you’ve taken the reins again—and that can unload stress.

5 Minutes

Take a shortcut to joy Your regular schedule may have gone out the  window when family dropped in, but that doesn’t mean you have to abandon what  you love. Just do a super-quick version of it. Turn your normal leisurely chat  with your best friend into a quick morning check-in, or skip hanging out at  Starbucks but grab a latte to go. “Figure out what gives you joy and commit to  doing it,” says Katrin Schumann, coauthor of Mothers Need Time-Outs, Too.

Throw open the curtains According to a recent University of Washington  study, gazing out at the natural world lowers your heart rate, even when you  have to deal with stress-inducing situations. To bring some serenity inside,  decorate with natural finds. Ditch the plastic wreath in favor of a real one, or  stack pinecones in a glass vase for a quick centerpiece.

Press here for peace Feeling flustered? Sneak into the bathroom during  the festivities and try this quick acupressure move, called the Sea of  Tranquility, to send a “calm down now” message to your brain. Find the small,  slightly tender indentation in the center of your breastbone. With three  fingertips, press down gently for two minutes, then gradually release the  pressure. The acupressure not only helps you deepen your breathing, which  relaxes you, but it naturally releases tension, says Hanley. “I love that it’s  called the Sea of Tranquility,” she says. “It reminds you that you have this  inner calm that you can access at any time.”

1 Minute

Take a mistletoe moment Physical affection has been shown to increase  your body’s levels of oxytocin and dopamine, hormones that reduce stress, so  grab your honey and start smooching. Even if you’re not feeling frisky, try  cuddling for a while; simply touching hands can make the stress hormone cortisol  melt away. “When we have strong relationships, we are buffered against the  effects of stress,” says Kory Floyd, PhD, professor of health and family  communication at Arizona State University. “It doesn’t mean we don’t have  stress, but we tend not to overreact.”

Create your own calm Decide on one word that describes the holiday  season you want to have this year; it could be Peace, Joy, Love, Family  or Serenity. Write it on an index card and tape it to your bathroom  mirror. When things get hectic, a glance at your guiding word will remind you of  what you really want—and make it easier to cut loose anything that’s distracting  you from your goal.

Say it ain’t so Yes, you want your holidays to be perfect, but no  matter how much you plan (and worry), something will go wrong. Meals get burned,  kids make messes, relatives argue, gifts miss the mark. Instead of freaking out,  repeat something that reminds you that imperfection is OK, like It is what it  is or Life happens. “A moment of self-talk helps us turn off the spigot of  thoughts that constantly tell us we’re not doing things right,” explains  Schumann. “It reminds us that the holidays aren’t about being perfect. It’s a  time to laugh, be with family and share memories.”

Read more: Reducing Holiday Stress at – Stress Management – Woman’s Day

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